The following special double issue of the BCL Newsletter is © 1998, United States Catholic Conference. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for free duplication of this issue of the BCL Newsletter for educational purposes, provided no fee is charged.
An Introduction to the Second Edition of the Lectionary for Mass
On the night before he died, Christ gathered with his disciples to celebrate the Last Supper. There, he took bread and wine and gave it to them as the everlasting sign of the new covenant in his blood (Lk 22:20). From that night onward, "the Church has never ceased to celebrate his paschal mystery by coming together to read what referred to him in all the Scriptures (Lk 24:27), and to carry out the work of salvation through the celebration of the memorial of the Lord and through the sacraments," (Lectionary for Mass [LFM], 10).
In the earliest days of the Church, the apostles gathered weekly for "the breaking of the bread and to the prayers" (Acts 2:42). St. Luke reminds us that the first of Jesus' followers still observed the cycle of Scripture readings in synagogues as a regular part of their worship (Acts 13:14ff). As well, when Christians gathered within the homes of the apostles, the Scriptures were read and preached about at length (Acts 20:9). Whether Greek or Jew, Christians read widely from the Pentateuch, the Law and the Prophets and paired these with the Gospels and the letters of the apostles as a regular preparation for the celebration of the Eucharist (Justin Martyr, 1 Apol.67).
Second Vatican Council
In line with this same ancient tradition, The Second Vatican Council recognized that "Sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from it that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung. It is from the Scriptures that the prayers, collects and hymns draw their inspiration and their force, and that actions and signs derive their meaning" (Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC] 24). Further, the Council declared that the reform of the liturgy should promote an appreciation for the Scriptures by providing the faithful with "more ample, more varied and more suitable" readings at every Mass (SC 35). This was to be done by opening up treasures of the bible "more lavishly so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's Word. In this way, a more representative part of the Sacred Scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years" (SC 51).
In response to the Council's directives, a revised Lectionary was prepared by the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy under the title Ordo Lectionum Missae, approved by Pope Paul VI in the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum (April 3, 1969) and published by a letter from Benno Cardinal Gut, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship on Pentecost Sunday (May 25, 1969). The letter of publication directed episcopal conferences to prepare vernacular editions of the Ordo Lectionum Missae in accordance with the Consilium's 1969 instruction on vernacular translations.
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops published such an edition and decreed its mandatory use in the dioceses of the United States of America beginning with the first Sunday of Advent, November 29, 1971. The biblical text used for this edition was that of the New American Bible, a translation first commissioned by the Bishops' Committee for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in 1944. For the next two decades, some fifty scholars of the Catholic Biblical Association labored to produce a translation of the Bible from its original languages and the oldest extant texts. Over the first two decades of its use in the liturgy and in private devotion the 1970 edition of the New American Bible has provided immeasurable spiritual benefit.
Second Edition of the Ordo Lectionum Missae
In 1981, the Holy See issued a second typical edition of the Ordo Lectionum Missae (editio typica altera). This edition was approved by Pope John Paul II and published by a decree from James Cardinal Knox, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship on January 21, 1981.
Second Edition of the Lectionary for Mass for use in the Dioceses of the United States of America
The second edition of the Lectionary for Mass for use in the Dioceses of the United States of America was approved by the NCCB on June 20, 1992 and confirmed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on October 6, 1997. Details concerning the final revisions of the Lectionary for Mass are contained in the June-July 1997 issue of the BCL Newsletter.
As with its first edition, the revised Lectionary for Mass was based on the 1970 New American Bible. The sixteen years of private and liturgical use of this translation, as well as subsequent advances in biblical scholarship, led to the revision of its translation of the New Testament in 1986. The revised Lectionary for Mass therefore employs the 1986 edition of the Revised New Testament and the 1970 edition of the Old Testament, including the Psalms.
Certain changes to the base text were made both for increased precision and in the interest of accurately conveying a horizontally inclusive scriptural term as well as for greater ease in proclamation. In the first category may be included the following kinds of examples:
a smoking brazier was changed to a smoking fire pot in LFM 27
seahs of flour was changed to measures of flour in LFM 108C
A detailed description of the inclusive language issues may be found in the June-July 1997 issue of the BCL Newsletter.
Also of concern to the editors of the revised Lectionary for Mass was the development of a common scriptural vocabulary. By the preferential use of NAB vocabulary and phrases in the translation of titles (tituli) found above readings and in the first lines (incipits) of all readings, the editors attempted to develop consistent biblical-liturgical terms.
New Features of the Second Edition of the Ordo Lectionum Missae
The Introduction to the second edition of the Lectionary for Mass has been considerably expanded and opens with an extended theological reflection, based on conciliar and postconciliar teachings, on the significance of the Word of God in liturgical celebration. Following the example of Christ, who himself read and proclaimed the Scriptures, the liturgy is both founded on the Word of God and sustained by it. Through a variety of liturgical celebrations and other gatherings, the Word of God enriches the Church through the "unfolding mystery of Christ" in the liturgical year, while the liturgy itself enriches the word with new meaning and power. In this process Christ's faithful respond together and as individuals through the liturgy to the Holy Spirit working within them.
Any reflection on the Word of God, as well as on the liturgy, must begin with Christ. It is he who "speaks by his own mouth to the people" and about whom Saint Augustine proclaims, "The Gospel is the mouth of Christ." Christ is present in his Word, joined with the Blessed Trinity, "living and effective."(LFM 4). In this way, the Sacred Scripture achieves " its fullest expression in the Liturgy"(LFM 4). Both the Old and New Testaments proclaim the same mystery of Christ, as the "New Testament lies hidden in the Old; the Old Testament comes fully to light in the New."(LFM 5).
The Introduction envisions the liturgy as a dialogue between God and his people. God speaks his word and "expects a response."(LFM 6) The response he seeks is one "of listening and adoring...in Spirit and in truth" (John 4:23), expressed by actions, gestures, and words. What gives these ritual expressions their power? While it is true that actions-such as processions, posture, or gestures-and words-such as "Thanks be to God," or "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ"-derive some of their meaning from social experience, the Introduction notes that these rites "derive their full meaning" from the word they proclaim and from the economy of salvation to which they refer. Thus, participation is fostered primarily by an internal factor: the conversion of heart which each Christian experiences when listening to the word and striving to commit to Christ Jesus. The Introduction thus describes a spiral pattern through which all may ascend in holiness.
Such a journey begins by listening to God's Word. Its goal is then made clear: to conform our lives to what we celebrate and, in turn, to bring to the liturgy all that we do in life. In the hearing of God's word the Church is built up. In the signs of the liturgical celebration, God's wonderful, past works in the history of salvation are presented anew as mysterious realities. God in response makes use of the faithful to proclaim his word and to glorify his name among the nations. Whenever, therefore, the Church, gathered by the Holy Spirit for liturgical celebration, announces and proclaims the word of God, she is aware of being a new people in whom the covenant made in the past is perfected and fulfilled. Baptism and confirmation in the Spirit have made all Christ's faithful into messengers of God's word because of the grace of hearing they have received. All must therefore be the bearers of the same word in the Church and in the world, at least by the witness of their lives. The word of God proclaimed in the celebration of the sacred mysteries does not only address present conditions but looks back to the meaning of past events and forward to what is yet to come. Thus God's word shows us what we should hope for with such a longing that in this changing world our hearts will be set on the place where our true joys are found (LFM 19).
The Introduction points out the "different duties and responsibilities with respect to the word of God" which are shared amongst the members of the assembly. All hear the word but only the ordained or those entrusted with such a ministry may expound on its meaning through preaching (LFM 8). By these different roles, the "Church keeps alive and passes on to every generation all that she is, all that she believes" (LFM 8). Good preaching relies on the working of the Holy Spirit, "if the word of God is to make what we hear outwardly, have its effect inwardly" (LFM 9). By the inspiration of this same Spirit, the entire liturgy becomes the voice of the Church at prayer and the rule and suppport of all Christian life (LFM 9).
Recalling that "the preaching of the word is necessary for the ministry of the sacraments, for these are sacraments of faith, which is born and nourished from the word," the Introduction describes a twofold table of God's word and of the Eucharist. "From the one it grows in wisdom and from the other in holiness" (LFM 10). In their unity is formed a single act of divine worship.
The Liturgy of the Word at Mass
The Introduction teaches that because it is through the Scriptures that God speaks to his people, the biblical readings for Mass with their accompanying chants from the Sacred Scriptures may not be omitted, shortened, or, worse still, replaced by nonbiblical readings. In Masses with the people," the readings are always to be proclaimed at the ambo" (LFM 16).
The first means of effectively communicating the word of God is to assure that the readings are proclaimed in an audible, clear, and understandable voice. Thus, even the singing of a reading " must serve to bring out the sense of the words, not to obscure them." When introductory comments are given before the readings, they must be " simple, faithful to the text, brief, well prepared, and properly varied to suit the text they introduce" (LFM 16).
The reading of the Gospel is the highpoint of the Liturgy of the Word. The Evangeliary or Book of Gospels is carried in by the deacon or reader and "it is most fitting that the deacon or a priest, when there is no deacon, take the book from the altar and carry it to the ambo" (LFM 17). Such a procession is meant to solemnize the entry of Jesus as the Word of God into the assembly. The Introduction then summarizes the ritual details for proclamation of the Gospel.
The responsorial psalm (LFM 21), also called the gradual, is an "integral part of the liturgy of the word." The Introduction repeats the Council's call that pastors diligently communicate the importance of the Psalms in the life of the Church and her liturgy. The Introduction summarizes the ways in which the responsorial psalm may be proclaimed, noting that "the singing of the psalm, or even of the response alone, is a great help toward understanding and meditating on the psalm's spiritual meaning." Such singing should be fostered by "every means available in each individual culture." The responsorial psalm is to be sung or recited by the psalmist.
The Introduction sees the Creed (LFM 29) as a response to the Word of God. "Before beginning to celebrate in the Eucharist the mystery of faith," the Creed calls to mind "the rule of faith in a formulary approved by the Church" (LFM 30). The prayer of the Faithful or Universal Prayer is likewise, in a certain sense, a response to the Word of God, interceding "for the needs of the universal Church and the local community, for the salvation of the world and those oppressed by any burden, and for special categories of people." The Introduction notes that "For the prayer of the faithful the celebrant presides at the chair and the intentions are announced at the ambo."
At every Mass with the People, the Word of God is proclaimed from an ambo "somewhat elevated, fixed, and of a suitable design and nobility....of harmonious and close relationship.... with the altar" (LFM 32). The ambo "must...truly help the people's listening and attention during the Liturgy of the Word"(LFM 34). It should be of sufficient size, sound, light and have amplification equipment. The ambo is reserved for the readings, the responsorial psalm, and the Easter Proclamation (the Exsultet) (LFM 33). While it may be also used for the homily and the prayer of the faithful, "it is better for the commentator, cantor, or director of singing, for example, not to use the ambo."
The books from which the Word of God is proclaimed must be "worthy, dignified and beautiful" (LFM 35). This is particularly true of the Book of Gospels, which holds a certain preeminence among the liturgical books (LFM 36). Neither the Lectionary nor the Book of Gospels may be replaced by pastoral aides or other leaflets (LFM 37).
Roles at the Liturgy of the Word
The priest, while counted among the listeners to the Word of God, holds the duty of proclaiming the word which has been entrusted above all to him. "He then as a rule reserves to himself the tasks of composing comments to help the people listen more attentively and of preaching a homily that fosters in them a richer understanding of the Word of God" (LFM 38). Thus he must have a thorough knowledge of the structure and interrelatedness of the readings at Mass (LFM 39). With pastoral sensitivity he chooses among the various options for readings, after listening to the opinions of the faithful and nourishes them through the homily. He leads the Prayer of the Faithful, and when appropriate, provides introductory comments for each of the readings (LFM 40).
"Christ's word gathers the people of God as one and increases and sustains them" (LFM 44). The people of God have "a spiritual right" to hear this word. They are to chrish it with " an inward and outward reverence that will bring them continuous growth in the spiritual life and draw them more deeply into the mystery which is celebrated" (LFM 45). The Sacred Scriptures are the source of life and strength, "the food of Christian life and the source of the prayer of the whole Church." Thus the faithful should be present for the entire Mass and should remain open to the word "not only during Mass but in their entire Christian life as well" (LFM 48).
The Introduction suggests an order of precedence by recalling that the biblical readings are proclaimed by readers and the deacon. "But when there is no deacon or no other priest present, the priest celebrant is to read the Gospel and when there is no reader present, all the readings" (LFM 49).
The Introduction also addresses the difference between instituted and non-instituted readers, recalling that "whenever there is more than one reading, it is better to assign the readings to different readers, if available" Psalmists or cantors of the psalms should be drawn from those "with the ability to sing and read with correct diction" (LFM 56). Commentators may also provide "relevant explanations and comments that are clear, of marked sobriety, meticulously prepared, and as a rule written out and approved beforehand by the celebrant" (LFM 57).
Structure of the Order of Readings
The second section of the Introduction describes the structure of the Order of Readings. Noting that the order has been chosen for pastoral effectiveness inspired by the Second Vatican Council, the Lectionary seeks to provide "the faithful with a knowledge of the whole of God's word, in a pattern suited to the purpose. Throughout the liturgical year, but above all during the seasons of Easter, Lent, and Advent, the choice and sequence of readings are aimed at giving Christ's faithful an ever-deepening perception of the faith they profess and of the history of salvation" (LFM 60).
While not simply instructional, the Liturgy does serve "as a pedagogical resource aiding catechesis" (LFM 61). The fixed order of readings provides the whole Church with the opportunity of hearing the same readings on any given day, even in the absence of a priest (LFM 62). As well, the Lectionary offers a certain flexibility in the choices provided to pastors in response to the concerns of their own parishes (LFM 63).
The remainder of the Introduction summarizes the Principles applied in the Composition of the Order of Readings for Mass together with a detailed description of the Order of Readings. The final chapter lists the principles to be followed in the development of vernacular typical editions for the adaptation, translation and formatting of the Order of Readings.
Role of the Neo-Vulgate
Also post-dating the publication of the first edition of the Lectionary for Mass was the Apostolic Constitution Scripturarum thesaurus (25 April 1979), which adopted the Neo-Vulgate as the typical edition for Latin liturgical use.
Readings from the Roman Ritual and other Rites
Because the first edition of the Lectionary for Mass was issued at an early stage in the reform of the liturgical books, the revision of the greater portion of the Roman Ritual and other rites had not yet been completed. Lectionaries developed for those rites and which could be celebrated within Mass were not, therefore, incorporated into the first edition of the Lectionary for Mass. However, such lectionaries were incorporated into the new edition of the Lectionary for Mass.
Readings from Masses for Various Needs and Occasions
The 1975 edito typica altera of the Missale Romanum contained several additional prayer sets for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions. Additional readings were provided in the revised Lectionary of Mass, including the following: for the conferral of all sacraments of initiation; for the admission of candidates to the diaconate and the priesthood; for the institution of lectors and acolytes; for the anointing of the sick and dying; for the dedication or blessing of a church or an altar; for the unity of Christians; for the evangelization of peoples; for those in captivity or those who hold others captive. A number of new Masses, such as a votive Mass for the angels, have also been added.
Additional Cycles of Readings
Several major celebrations in the Church year were provided with only a single set of readings in the 1970 Lectionary. In order that " a more lavish table of the word of God be spread before the faithful" (SC, 51), A, B and C cycles were provided for celebrations of the Holy Family, the Baptism of the Lord, the Ascension and Pentecost.
The effort to produce a translation of the revised Lectionary for Mass has been a nearly ten year project, involving the combined talents of scholars, bishops, expert consultors and staff members of both the NCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy and the Congregation for Divine Worship. The greatly expanded choices for celebrating the Word of God which can now be realized in the daily life of the Church are the result of this important collaborative work. With the publication of the revised Lectionary for Mass, a major liturgical book envisioned by the Council will now be fully available to support the Church at prayer in the modern world.
The New Lectionary for Mass A Reader's Perspective
- What is the Lectionary for Mass?
- How many volumes are there to the Lectionary for Mass?
- What's new in this Lectionary?
- What about inclusive language?
- May a reader change the text in proclamation?
- Why are the readings laid out differently?
- Is this the same Lectionary used throughout the English speaking world?
- Who chose this Lectionary?
After the Second Vatican Council ended in 1965, all books used for the liturgy were revised. The Lectionary (book of readings) for the Mass was first published in 1970. This Lectionary included a wide range of readings from the Bible, with several cycles of readings for Sundays and weekdays, and was revised by the Holy See in 1981.
The Lectionary has been prepared in two volumes: the first volume contains readings for Sunday and Solemnities. Volume II, which will be discussed by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 1998 contains readings for weekdays and other Masses. These volumes will be further divided by some publishers into Sunday volumes A, B, C and other similar arrangements.
Additional cycles of readings for some solemnities and additional options for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions have been introduced. An extensive introduction provides theological and practical background on the Lectionary along with the lectionaries for all the ritual books which have been published in the past thirty years.
The new Lectionary strives for maximum possible fidelity to the biblical text. When that text is not gender specific, the new Lectionary is not gender specific. When the text is gender specific, the new Lectionary is gender specific. While certain tools are appropriate to achieve such inclusivity (for example, whoever, the one, anyone, etc...), other tools (for example, change of person and number) change the meaning of the biblical text. The new Lectionary never changes the biblical text in order to make it more "inclusive".
No. Just as the Church is obliged to faithfully proclaim the Bible as it has been passed on, the reader is obliged to faithfully proclaim the biblical text exactly as it appears in the Lectionary for Mass. The homily is the proper place to explain biblical texts which are unclear or appear to be inconsistent with contemporary sensitivities. We can never change the Bible because it is the Word of God.
All readings in the revised Lectionary have been presented in sense lines with indentations. Experts in the art of proclamation were consulted in order to present the text in a way that would encourage effective and easy proclamation by readers of the word of God.
While various translations of the Bible in English and other languages may be employed in each country's Lectionary, the choice of the readings is the same throughout the world. This Lectionary is the typical edition of the Latin Ordo Lectionum Missae authorized for use in the United States.
This Lectionary was approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (with more than a two thirds majority vote) and confirmed by Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on behalf of the Holy See. Once the second volume of this Lectionary has been published, it will become the only Lectionary text which may be used in the United States.
Permission is granted for free duplication of this issue of the BCL Newsletter for educational purposes, provided no fee is charged.
Living and Active
Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum (DV), number 21: The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God's word and of Christ's body. She has always maintained them, and continues to do so, together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since, as inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God Himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and Apostles. Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture. For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. Consequently these words are perfectly applicable to Sacred Scripture: "For the word of God is living and active" (Heb. 4:12) and "it has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32; see 1 Thess. 2:13).
That Warm and Living Love for Scripture
SC 24: Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, number 7)
The Treasures are to be Opened More Lavishly
The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.(Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, number 51)
An Inner Attitude
...It must not be forgotten that complete renewal makes yet other demands...These demands, which spring from a new responsibility for the Word of God in the liturgy, go yet deeper and concern the inner attitude with which the ministers of the Word perform their function in the liturgical assembly. (Pope John Paul II, Letter, Dominicae Cenae, 24 February 1980, number 10)
Only the Word of God
...It must always be remembered that only the Word of God can be used for Mass readings. The reading of Scripture cannot be replaced by the reading of other texts, however much they may be endowed with undoubted religious and moral values. On the other hand such texts can be used very profitably in the homily.... (Pope John Paul II, Letter, Dominicae Cenae, 24 February 1980, number 10)
Permission is granted for free duplication of this issue of the BCL Newsletter for educational purposes, provided no fee is charged.