Biennial Lectionary for the Office of Readings 3

In September and October 2018 I published two posts on the Biennial Office of Readings. These can be found here and here.  In these posts I gave an introduction to this optional two-year Lectionary for the Office of Readings and the state of play with different publications that use it, particularly in English.

This post is to comment on a positive development in the use of this Lectionary.  The long-term hope for most who use this Lectionary in English is that the Congregation for Divine Worship will eventually publish a ritual edition of the readings, along with a definitive selection of Second (mainly Patristic) Readings to accompany it.  Once this is published and translated, then the different unofficial editions (A Word in Seasons, Christian Readings, Pluscarden series, etc.) would be replaced by a uniform system common throughout the world.

While we will still have to wait for the publication of the editio typica as part of a Volume 5 of the Liturgy of the Hours or as part of a third typical edition. There was a positive step forward in this regard.  The 2020 volume of Notitiae has recently been published by the CDW (Vol. 56 (2020)) and is available on their website. Aside from the various liturgical documents published during the pandemic, this volume contains “the list of biblical readings for the biennial cycle of the Officium lectionis Liturgiae Horarum is published, followed by an explanatory Commentary.”

This definitive listing replaces the various partial lists that were published in Notitiae over the years. These earlier lists were overlapping and did contain the reference for all the Biblical readings for both years of the biennial cycle.  However, some sections that overlapped actually proposed slightly different readings, for example the readings for Holy Week are different in the 1976, 1992 and 1993 versions published in Notitiae. Taking advantage of the publication of the Nova Vulgata in 1983 a new definitive list of the readings has now been published. This Lectiones Biblicae pro Officio Lectionis Liturgiae Horarum secundum editionem anno 1983 Novae Vulgatae exaratam in Notitiae 56 (2020): 130-179 is now the definitive list of biblical readings for the Biennial Lectionary of the Office of Readings. This new list replaces all earlier lists and the titles of the readings have also been revised in places. A commentary in Italian on the Biblical Readings of the Biennial Office of Readings by Mario Lessi Ariosto, SJ is also published on pages 180-222 of the same issue of Notitiae. This gives a helpful history of this biennial cycle and how it has developed from Vatican II until today.

Hopefully this new movement shows that a published version of the complete two-year Lectionary for the Office of Readings, but in the meantime it should help those who pray using this biblical series to have a standard improved edition officially published.


  1. The Daughters of Saint Paul suggested a solution with their publication of the Office of Readings in a single volume. Rather than the traditional manner of publishing the breviary in four volumes in Latin and the ICEL translation (three volumes in the British one), thus having to abridge the two-year Office of Readings cycle to a one-year version to fit the four (or three) volumes with the promise of a fifth volume for the other readings (scriptural and/or ecclesial) omitted from the other four volumes – a clumsy arrangement. The Daughters of Saint Paul’s single volume for the Office of Readings suggested a “thinking outside the box” approach to an edition of the Liturgy of Hours with the two-year cycle of readings in three volumes: a diurnal volume of the day hours and two other volumes each for the one of the two years of the Office of Readings.

    1. I recall reading somewhere that the reason for not segregating the Ofice of Readings was the fear that people would simply ignore it, and only purchase one volume for everything else. That is not entirely unfounded since the Office of Readings is the most neglected of the hours, in my anecdotal experience. There are several countries where it has still not been translated into liturgical vernacular for the clergy. Whether the printing in 3-4 volume is the best way (or even a good way) of addressing this neglect is another question.

      The DSP in India and parts of Central Africa had a slight variation that they were still selling 5 years ago (I don’t know about now). They had the traditional one-volume to which they also added the Psalter of the Office of Readings. They then split the Office of Readings from the Proper of Time and Proper of Seasons into a number of small, thinner booklets. The one volume came with a special cover, where the user could “slot” this OoR booklet at the back. The main difficulty, of course, was remembering to switch out the booklets!

      Personally, I feel that the Church/Episcopal conferences/publishers need to keep pace with the digital revolution. Yes, there are many advantages to the solid, well-bound and dignified ritual liturgical book. But that should not lead to a neglect of digital media and the revolution it has prompted in the world of publishing. The widespread use of ‘apps’ and other digital media by clergy should encourage the development of accessible and dignified digital offerings. A huge advantage is also offered by the possibility of quick and easy updates, and the much lower cost (a considerable factor in developing countries). At least in the English speaking world, the amount of ‘official’ digital content is next to nothing.

  2. The Biennial Lectionary is perhaps the most under utilized treasure from the post conciliar period. A year cycle of readings the covers all the New Testament letters and exposes the reader to a decent overview of the Old Testament with accompanying texts from the Patristic period and the Second Vatican Council is certainly a great tool for spiritual growth. It is my hope that a finished product available to the laity would separate it from the Office.

    I could see this as being done in one of two ways.

    1) Have each conference print a book with the full text of the scriptures (with the same translation used at Mass) to accompany the patristic readings. Perhaps ESV-CE in England and Scotland for example and probably the RNJB in Ireland?

    2) Only provide the reference to the scripture reading but not the full text itself. That way the book (or two books) is slimmer and one can use their own preferred translation.

  3. I value the Office of Readings greatly, and would value it still more if I had access to a handy volume containing the Lectionary for both years, cycles or whatever. Is that what the Daughters of St. Paul have produced? If so, is it on general sale?


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