Friday, August 23, 2013
More on the two Lectionaries
A commenter on the previous post said, "'New' lectionary. Most living Catholics have only known this lectionary. Do you see no merits in the OF lectionary?"
Of course Summorum Pontificum means that the ancient Lectionary is still part of the living tradition of the Church today, it hasn't been abrogated and at least for priests and people stands as a counterbalance for the Pauline Lectionary.
There are obvious advantages to the new Lectionary, even if it is a product of a committee and let us leave aside the matter of that committee's theology. The most obvious is that it gives a much broader and richer selection of the scriptures is offered, the Old Testament for example is not really present in the Lections, in the older form. Weekdays have their own readings rather being a re-presentation of Sunday, again opening up more of the Bible, at least for those who attend weekday Masses.
The problem is that the new Lectionary demands a deeper knowledge of scripture than most members of a congregation, or even most priests, actually have. Continuous readings are fine but miss a day with a feast or solemnity and there is a wait until the cycle reappears the year after next. Obscure readings from the Old Testament tend to go over people's heads unless the context is explained, for a highly mixed congregation the second reading and even the more difficult portions of St John's Gospel can exclude rather than include. In fact the new Lectionary more or less always demands the priest to give some explanation.
The newer Lectionary because of its Sunday three year cycle and weekly two year cycle always stands independent not only of the Divine Office but more importantly of the other texts and prayers of the Mass, this is not so with the older Liturgy were the Word of God is integral to the celebration not just of the Mass but of the whole days liturgy.
The change in the liturgy marked a distinct change in the use of scripture in the Church, the Mass of Paul VI made scripture essentially didactic, the ancient Lectionary is theophanic, a moment of divine revelation, an encounter with God, but it is also kérugmatic, it was honed to the proclamation of Christ, his death, resurrection and return. The single year cycle means that those things considered important by the Church are returned to repeatedly, year after year. The annual cycle of saints, remember the high significance of the cult of saints in the tradition of the West, their place in the ancient Roman Canon for example, constantly repeats the necessity for Christian virtues.
The scatter-gun approach of the OF Lectionary has meant that scripture is not memorised, as it was by previous generations. Most people's memories do not retain texts over a three year period (six if the cycle is interrupted by a transferred Holyday), and memories are confused by similar texts, for example stories that appear in all the Gospels, like the feeding stories, especially when the writers have different doctrinal reasons for presenting them.
Perhaps one of our big problems as a Church is that Catholic doctrine seems so very complex and that it is not understood by most regular Mass attenders, I think this is the result of the imprecision of the Pauline Lectionary, and that in fact more scripture in the Liturgy often means less scripture in the heart.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake