For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious

Friday, 3 November 2017

The lectionary - almost complete

I have almost completed the lectionary I have been working on, notionally to read the entirety of Holy Scripture in one year. The Temporal is finished; the Sanctoral is not. In the table of lessons, there are (as in the Breviary) three lessons for Matins and one for after Prime; and (an innovation) two for Vespers as at a Book of Common Prayer Evensong. It has undergone a very slow and gradual evolution to get to its current form, and is likely to be further modified as I use it.

It can be seen by following the link entitled A Table of Lessons at this page.

It is based around the spine of the traditional Breviary lectionary of the Sarum use which is as follows:

Advent to Epiphany - Isaiah
After Epiphany - St Paul
Septuagesima to Passion Sunday - Genesis and the first few chapters of Exodus
Passion Week and Holy Week - Jeremiah
Triduum - Lamentations
Eastertide - Revelation, then the General Epistles
Ascension to Whitsun - Acts
After Trinity - History of the Kings
August - Ecclesiasticus
September - Job, Tobit and Judith
October - Maccabees
November - Ezekiel

This experimental lectionary expands the material so that slightly longer passages are read at Matins each day, and makes the following additions to the above material:

Advent - Daniel and Revelation
Christmas - Chronicles (the part about Solomon's coronation and consecration of the Temple)Epiphany - Exodus (the high priestly section)
After Epiphany - the rest of Chronicles
Septuagesima and Lent - the Sermon on the Mount, Deuteronomy, the rest of Jeremiah.
Passiontide - Hebrews
Eastertide - the rest of Acts, Joshua & Judges
Ascension and Whitsun - the rest of Exodus (Sinai and the building of the Tabernacle)
Trinity - the first chapters of the Gospel of John
After Trinity - Gospel of Mark, Proverbs
August - Esther, Wisdom, and the Song of Solomon
September to November - Leviticus & Numbers, Ecclesiastes, the Gospels of Luke & Matthew
November - the Minor Prophets from Hosea to Malachi

There are reasons for the ordering of the additional material - I have tried to make the choice of lessons in any part of the liturgical year mystagogical in character, primarily. A rationale for some of the more obscure of these choices:

Advent - Daniel looks forward to the Incarnation; Revelation to the appearing of our Lord Jesus
Christmas - Solomon, the son of David, is the type of new-born King at Bethlehem
Epiphany - the High Priest and his vestments, washings, oil and incense are a type of Christ's theophany at the visit of the Wise Men, and in his Baptism
Septuagesima to Lent - Deutoronomy is a recapitulation of the Law after a falling away, a warning to return to our baptismal promises
Eastertide - Joshua and Judges (the new life of Israel after resurrection , the crossing of the Jordan) parallel the account of the new life of the church in Acts
Ascension to Whitsun - The Ascent of Moses to Sinai, and the giving of the Law and the pattern of the Tabernacle, are types of the Ascension and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost
August to November - I have fitted in the wisdom books and the rest of Pentateuch as best as I can; but the Song of Solomon (which is the type of the mystical union) is read during the octave of the Assumption.

One might ask if this is too much Scripture - if it upsets the balance of the Breviary. My own sense, from use of this lectionary, is that the longer passages for the Matins lessons don't upset the balance: Matins is a long office anyway, and reading around thirty verses of Holy Scripture over three lessons (instead of, say, ten verses) doesn't overburden the office or lengthen it by more than a couple of minutes. The Prime lesson is something to be read over breakfast perhaps. When it comes to Vespers, I can understand why those used to a form of the traditional breviary might not like two lessons added in, but for those used to Evensong it isn't unsettling. Again, one might think that it would lengthen Vespers considerably, but I doubt if it adds on more than five minutes on average.

Overall, the amount of Scripture read in the morning and evening is less than in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, on average, partly because one doesn't read the New Testament through twice, and (because the lessons follow the liturgical rather than the calendar year) there is some redundancy on any given year with weeks omitted after Epiphany or Trinity.


  1. Do I understand that you are retaining the Sarum Psalter along with these readings? A noble ideal but will you have the time to fulfill such a pensum? You may end up reinventing the BCP with respect to psalms or the Breviary with respect to lessons. At least you may have a greater understanding of those behind those books.

  2. I've incorporated an answer to that question into a revised posting above - I am trying to have the best of both worlds.


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