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Catechism part three - the Lectionary

Ummmm, okay in the icon Simon Amstell isn't reading the Lectionary, but it's the only one I have of someone reading. If you haven't seen that episode of Nevermind the Buzzcocks you really need to, it's hysterical. Anyway, on to my notes - tada!

The Lectionary.

The section on the Lectionary was really interesting. For those of you who have never been to a mass before, they read two or three Bible verses over the course of the mass from a large, beautifully adorned book. Congregation members get to read the first two, but the priest or deacon reads the last one before beginning the homily. (Homily, to me, is a sermon or the preaching part.) I always thought that giant book was a Bible, but it’s actually selections from the Bible that have been picked to accompany the various masses and special ceremonies (sacramental celebrations such as weddings, Baptisms, funerals, etc.). It is cyclical over a three year period, and a lot of thought went into what portions were selected, why, how they work together, etc. I grew up Baptist, and I have been told Baptists are supposed to be very good about Bible study. I remember when I was attending a Non-Denominational Charismatic church our preacher, in an effort to encourage us to read the Bible more often and more thoroughly, told a joke as an illustration. In the future medical surgeries will have advanced so much that whatever is broken you can just replace. Someone’s brain was worn out and needed a new one; the brainshop keeper had three donor brains on hand to choose from. They were priced: Baptist brain $1000, Methodist brain $2500, Charismatic $10,000. At this point the congregation was feeling really pleased, thinking look how much our brains are worth. The joke ended with the patron asking why the last brain cost so much, and the retailer saying, Why, that brain used to belong to a Charismatic. It has hardly been used! We groaned, but we got the point that we needed to study more. Apparently Catholics have that same reputation about not using actual scripture as much other faiths. The Lectionary is one effort at increasing Biblical knowledge by hearing it read to us during mass, although we are also encouraged to join study groups and read on our own. I had often wondered why they selected the verses they did for mass, if the verses were supposed to work together somehow, if the priests had to match their homilies to the text (what if they were called to speak on different topic, could they deviate?), and did every church have to follow the same set of verses. I thought that sometimes the verses projected a theme, but not always. So I can be very Sylar about stuff, I love to know the inner workers. This part of the lesson fascinated me, but might not be interesting to anyone else.

Technical stuff The Lectionary started out on a one year cycle, but to increase the amount of and variety of scripture heard the Church increased it to a three year cycle after Vatican II. All the Catholic churches around the word use it. Moreover, Episcopalian, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and the United Churches of Canada use a lectionary modeled on the one developed by Vatican II. The first of three readings is either from the Old Testament or, during Easter, the Acts of the Apostles. We respond with one of the Psalms. The second is always from the New Testament letters. The third reading is always from one of the Gospels. That much I had noticed, so points to me there. In those readings, during the three year cycle they cover something from every chapter of the Bible except Obadiah, which is only 21 verses long so read it your darn self. Anyway, the point is you might not be reading the entire Bible, but you are getting the most important bits and are exposed to nearly every book. I was also right in seeing occasional themes or links between the readings, so more points to me, woot! The Old Testament reading is selected to complement the Gospel reading in some fashion, such as by theme (for example, sacrifice or being called), by foreshadowing (OT prophesy for NT event), or by reference (NT person quoting the OT). The Psalm usually complements the first reading (by theme) or is selected for the day (suits Easter). Of the 150 Psalms, 130 are used! The middle reading, the letter, doesn’t really complement anything for the most part. It’s usually just there to expose you to the material. I think that’s why I always had trouble with trying to find a pattern, as I was trying to find the connection between all three readings instead of just the two. I also think the middle reading is omitted during weekday masses, but I may be wrong. I had been going to mass on Fridays when we had Fridays off during the summer, and I thought we only used two readings. Mass was a lot shorter!

I am still working on my thoughts on the cyclical nature of the Lectionary, but those thoughts tie into all the other cyclical events in the church so don’t need to go here.

Anyway, that was really cool to learn all the details about how it was developed and the thoughts and intentions behind it because it answered all the questions I knew I had and a few I did not know I had.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 25th, 2008 05:08 am (UTC)
utterly utterly fascinating. Please continue expressing your thoughts on this stuff: this is an element of the teachings of Cathol that I'd never heard of before.
Oct. 26th, 2008 05:47 am (UTC)
Long live Cathol!!

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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