Many Catholics and Anglicans — no doubt, along with other Christians — are having second thoughts over the three-year Lectionary in common use among all demoninations.
My personal problem with it is the omission of certain key passages, which is why I started my Sunday series of Forbidden Bible Verses and added a new page to Churchmouse Campanologist called Essential Bible Verses, an abbreviation of same for quick reference. How do you know when you’ve been missing out on Scripture? Just look in your weekly church bulletin for the ellipses (‘…’) between verses in your readings. Check out what’s missing — you’ll be surprised!
New Liturgical Movement recently featured an article called ‘Doubts about the Three-Year Cycle’. The author, Jeffrey Tucker, is a liturgist who finds the Lectionary problematic. Naturally, this cycle started as a post-Vatican II initiative which was instituted in 1969. Many Protestant churches picked up on it, no doubt in a drive for ecumenism. Who knows? The positives are that it certainly allows for a more comprehensive inclusion of Scripture in public worship every three years. It also expands the Psalms and Propers which are said or sung.
Mr Tucker makes the following points, which I’ve paraphrased below followed by my own commentary in places:
- How much of these readings are we as a congregation retaining each year? Even today, there are a lot of ‘new’ readings which people don’t remember too clearly afterward. Therefore, what is their impact? Very little.
- Repetition is important. This follows on from the first point. Many of us grew up with a common set of Gospel stories which we always liked to hear year after year. It didn’t take a lot of brainwork to remember when they would be read. Those lessons were comforting and thought-provoking. As a case in point, I always look forward to my favourite Gospel passage the first Sunday after Easter, featuring ‘Doubting’ St Thomas, who must touch Christ’s wounds in order to believe that the Crucifixion and Resurrection had taken place. ‘Blessed is he who has not yet seen, yet believed.’ So, it’s always disappointing to find that this isn’t necessarily Thomas’s year!
- What about the priest or minister who delivers the sermons? His paperwork and research is threefold!
- From a liturgist’s or choir director’s perspective, extra time is spent each week on rehearsing the music and singing for arrangements which one encounters only once every three years. That means that each year, it’s as if they’re starting from square one.
- The Church calendar is pushed to one side with continuous references to ‘Ordinary Time’, which automatically communicates to the layperson that it’s less important. Nothing could be further from the truth. What’s great about living in England is that term time at Oxford, Cambridge and public (private) secondary schools revolves around feasts in the Church year such as Michaelmas. Yesterday’s post discussed the Sundays immediately preceding Lent. These Sundays are part of Ordinary Time to Catholics. (Thanks, Cardinal Bugnini!) Thankfully, the Anglican Church still numbers its post-Pentecost weeks as Sundays ‘after Trinity’.
Blogger Christian Campbell, a high church senior warden, posted on his dissatisfaction with the Lectionary. The comments are priceless! I hope he won’t mind if I share a few with you here:
Fr Bill: I spent considerable time reviewing the 3-year lectionary before tossing it into the trash. The reason for the trashing was simple. I am a single-issue guy. It was the deletion of Scripture that indicated there are roles for men and women. I noticed also a deliberate skipping of Scripture that calls sin sin. AND no Sunday is ‘ordinary’.
Jeremy Hummerstone: … I don’t think the ‘wealth of prefaces’ turns out to be all that much of a positive aspect, when you actually come to use them. Many of them have a rather didactic air, and we already have quite enough of that sort of thing.
Fr Bill and Mr Hummerstone are preparing to cross the Tiber, by the way. Good luck to them, liturgically speaking. I think they will be mighty surprised and not for the better.
The new readings also have an impact on what people hear at church on saints’ feast days. Peter Kwasniewski of Scripture and Catholic Tradition explores the lack of suitable readings when the feasts of well-known saints occur on the same day. The readings often fit one saint but not the other. For example, St Thérèse of Lisieux’s (The Little Flower) feast day occurs on the same day now as St Remegius’s. Thanks again, Cardinal Bugnini! Yet, the Novus Ordo readings correspond only to St Remegius’s life.
A comparison with the propers of the old rite for Thérèse’s feastday will make apparent the magnitude of the loss suffered by the faithful when the ancient liturgy and its organic development were cast aside.
Comparing the two sets of propers, I ask: Is this an example of liturgical progress, of a ‘successful’ reform? The Novus Ordo propers are vague and generic, ready for application to any female saint; the Tridentine propers are majestic, poetic, and exactly apropos to the Little Flower.
Agreed and well said by everyone. If the day comes where we can reverse this, let’s take part, whether by letter-writing or petition-signing.