Lectionaries, II: Contemporary Roman Catholic

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Readings from Holy Scripture constitute an essential element of the Sacred Liturgy. Recognizing the importance of integrating the readings into all the rites of public worship, especially the Eucharistic liturgy, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC) declared 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" (SC 24). Further, the council mandated a reform of the liturgy that would promote an appreciation for the Scriptures by providing the faithful with "more ample, more varied and more suitable" readings at every Mass (SC 35), 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).

First Editio Typica of the Lectionary for Mass. As a part of the overall reform of the liturgy the Second Vatican Council ordered that the lectionary be revised, thereby increasing the number of pericopes from Sacred Scripture, particularly from the Old Testament. These new inclusions would be accommodated by the creation of a three-year cycle of Sunday readings and a two-year cycle of daily readings. Since the shift from the existing annual cycle to the new multiyear cycles was such a vast and important undertaking, Study Group (Coetus ) 11 was engaged for the purpose of creating a suitable preliminary study for the enterprise. They created a preliminary weekday lectionary (ordo lectionum per ferias ), which had a providential twofold effect: the appetite of the faithful was whetted for a broader taste of Sacred Scriptures; and valuable guidelines were yielded, based on the experience, for the compilation of the definitive set of readings.

In response to the council's directives, and in collaboration with Coetus 11, a revised Lectionary was prepared by the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy under the title Ordo Lectionum Missae. The editio typica of the new Lectionary, 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), provided only the appropriate biblical citations for the particular celebrations.

First Edition in English Translation. The desire for greater variety in the readings was stimulated by the introduction of the vernacular languages. Repetition of the same readingsespecially on weekdays, when the Scriptures of the preceding Sunday were read over and over, and in the Commonscreated boredom and were not effective in promoting prayer. The Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy therefore sent a letter of publication that 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 (NCCB) in the United States published such an edition and decreed its mandatory use in the dioceses of the United States beginning with the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 29, 1971. The biblical texts used for this edition were from the New American Bible (NAB), a translation first commissioned by the Bishops' Committee for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in 1944. For the next two decades, some 50 scholars of the Catholic Biblical Association labored to produce a translation of the Bible from its original languages and the oldest extant texts.

The English edition of the Lectionary, which appeared in 1970, contained the complete texts of the biblical readings and chants for the liturgy of the word in the celebration of the Mass. In addition to the texts, indices and tables indicating the use of the years in the cycle of readings provide the rationale for the arrangement of readings in the pattern of this Lectionary. For English speakers throughout the world a joint commission was established in 1963 known as the international commission on english in the liturgy that was entrusted with the responsibility of producing English translations of liturgical texts.

Second Edition of the Lectionary for Mass. The Holy See issued a second typical edition of the Ordo Lectionum Missae (editio typica altera), which 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 Jan. 21, 1981. The primary goal of the second edition of the Lectionary for Mass was the production of a book displaying the greatest possible fidelity to the biblical text. Being aware of the limitations of the English language, and acting in accord with Dei Verbum The Constitution on Divine Revelationwhich teaches that "since the Word of God must be readily available at all times, the Church, with motherly concern, sees to it that suitable and correct translations are made into various languages, especially from the original texts of the sacred books," a working group, comprised of representatives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and the NCCB, sought a lectionary that would faithfully convey the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew scriptures. The second edition of the Lectionary for Mass (LFM) for use in the dioceses of the United States was approved by the NCCB on June 20, 1992, and confirmed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on Oct. 6, 1997.

As with its first edition, the revised Lectionary for Mass was based on the 1970 New American Bible. The 16 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.

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.

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: "their holocausts" was changed to "their burnt offerings" (LFM 118); "a smoking brazier" was changed to "a smoking fire pot" (LFM 27); "seahs of flour" was changed to "measures of flour" (LFM 108C).

Two concerns were raised in a second category of inclusive language: the problem in the English language for a true generic term when referring to humanity, and the preponderance of masculine images and pronouns in reference to God. With attention to the principle of demonstrating maximum possible fidelity to the sacred text, the working group adopted three base versions for the lectionary. First, the 1986 Revised New Testament of the NAB was chosen as a translation whose primary concern was fidelity to what the text says. When the meaning of the Greek is inclusive of both sexes, the translation seeks to reproduce such inclusivity insofar as this is possible in normal English usage, without resort to inelegant circumlocutions or neologisms that would offend against the dignity of the language. Second, the working group adopted the 1970 Old Testament of the NAB, which was then modified for accuracy in rendering certain collective nouns and for the particular demands of public proclamation. Third, the working group adopted the 1970 translation of the NAB Psalter rather than the 1991 revision of this work. Because of previous critiques by Roman congregations of the 1991 translation, the working group concluded that the 1991 Psalter was unacceptable for liturgical use.

The 1989 NCCB Criteria for the Evaluation of the Use of Inclusive language in Scriptural Translations noted that the revealed word of God consistently uses a masculine reference for God. Hence, the working group avoided any use of vertical inclusivity in rendering scriptural texts.

The introduction to the second edition of the Lectionary for Mass was 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 all of Christ's faithful through the liturgy respond collectively and individually to the working of the Holy Spirit.

See Also: lectionaries i: history; lectionaries iii: ecumenical.

Bibliography: a. bugnini "The Lectionary of the Roman Missal," The Reform of the Liturgy 19481975 (Collegeville, Minn. 1990) 406425. É. palazzo, A History of Liturgical Books from the Beginning to the Thirteenth Century (Collegeville, Minn.1993). c. vogel, Medieval Liturgy: An Introduction to the Sources, tr. and rev. by w. storey and n. rasmussen (Washington, D.C.1986). c. wiÉner, "The Roman Catholic Eucharistic Lectionary," Studia Liturgica 21.1 (1991) 213. n. bonneau, The Sunday Lectionary: Ritual Word, Paschal Shape (Collegeville, Minn. 1998). e. nÜbold, Entstehung und Bewertung der neuen Perikopenordnung des Römischen Ritus für die Messfeier an Sonn-und Festtagen (Paderborn 1986).

[m. s. driscoll]