The Lectionary of the Catholic Church is a predetermined table of selections from Scripture to be read at Mass. The lectionary prevents individual priests from freely choosing readings to promote their own viewpoints and gives the faithful and overall and comprehensive exposure to scripture. One of the unexpected consequences of the development of the Catholic lectionary was its adoption (with modification) by many Protestant churches including Anglican/Episcopalian, Methodist, Prebyterian, Lutheran, and United Church of Canada. This has been good for Christian ecumenism.

The lectionary, although generally prescribed for every day of the year, gives exceptions:

  • alternate readings are given for solemnities and feast days
  • appropriate choices are given for special ceremonies such as marriages and funerals
  • a priest may choose alternate reading if they are more appropriate for a one-time gathering, such as a retreat
  • the greatest flexibility is allowed for masses with children (probably because of their limited understanding and attention spans)

The Sunday Lectionary is based on a three year cycle (A, B, and C years), with reading adapted to the seasons of Ordinary Time, Lent/Easter, and Advent/Christmas. Three passages are read for each Sunday mass (and masses of holy days): usually one Old Testament reading, one passage from an epistle, and one passage from the Gospel. The fundamental focus is the Paschal mystery of Christ.

In Ordinary Time:

  • The Gospel readings of Ordinary Time follow one of the synoptic gospels (Year A = Matthew; B = Mark, C = Luke). John is primarily reserved for the other seasons because of its special nature. Because Mark is so short, John 6 is read for five Sundays during Year B.
  • The epistles are chosen with the intention of giving the faithful "a rich and varied" although by no means complete exposure to the most important aspects of those writings.
  • Unlike the choosing of the epistles, the Old Testament readings are chosen to correspond to the Gospel text of that day. This is achieved either through the selection of a text with the same theme as the Gospel, or a text that prefigures the Gospel, or a text quoted or referenced in the Gospel.

In Lent/Easter:

In Advent/Christmas:

Lec"tion*a*ry (?), n.; pl. -ries (#). [LL. lectionarium, lectionarius : cf. F. lectionnaire.] Eccl.

A book, or a list, of lections, for reading in divine service.

 

© Webster 1913.

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