What is a Lectionary?
A lectionary is a book or list of selections from Scripture (sometimes called “pericopes,” “lections,” or “lessons”) chosen for reading in public worship. The Christian practice of Scripture reading in public worship likely derived from the synagogue, and over time, in both Jewish and Christian traditions, the pericopes associated with the different Sabbaths or Sundays and other celebrations of the year were fixed and compiled in books and lists. For the traditions that use them, these lectionary pericopes often form the basis for preaching and provide themes for worship.
Who Uses a Lectionary?
Use of a lectionary is usually associated with the more liturgical traditions within Christianity, such as Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism and Lutheranism. Nonetheless, in recent decades, some non-liturgical churches have also adopted optional or occasional use of a lectionary as a way of broadening the texts used for preaching or relating Sunday worship to the church year.
What are the Most Common Lectionaries in Use?
Until the 20th century, most Western Christian liturgical traditions used some derivative of the lectionary of the Roman Rite that took shape in the Middle Ages. This lectionary consists of an annual cycle of readings assigning an epistle and a Gospel pericope to each mass.
Lutherans and Anglicans reformed this lectionary in accord with Reformation understandings of Scripture and worship, while the reforms of the Council of Trent adjusted and standardized this lectionary for use in Catholic liturgy. These lectionaries are still used by some Lutheran and Anglican/Episcopalian congregations and in Catholic communities that celebrate the traditional Roman Rite.
Logos Bible Software base packages include two Lutheran Lectionaries that follow the traditional, one year, format: the Christian Worship One Year Lectionary from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the Lutheran Service Book Historic (One Year) Lectionary from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
In the 1960s, the lectionary for the Roman Rite in the Catholic Church was revised in response to the Second Vatican Council’s call for more extensive use of Scripture in the liturgy. The traditional lectionary was replaced with a three year cycle of three readings for Sundays and major feasts days and a two year cycle of two readings for daily mass. For most of the year, the Sunday cycle consists of an Old Testament reading, a non-Gospel New Testament reading and a Gospel reading. The lectionary also supplies a Responsorial Psalm that follows the first reading.
This arrangement found favor not just in the Catholic Church but among Protestants as well, and many churches began adopting versions of it. The ecumenical collaboration of the Consultation on Common Texts eventually resulted in the Revised Common Lectionary in 1992, which today is the most commonly used lectionary among English-speaking Protestants. As a consequence of this development, the same texts are proclaimed, reflected and preached upon on any given Sunday in congregations around the world and across many Christian traditions.
Logos Bible Software base packages include six of these modern three-year lectionaries:
- The Catholic Lectionary
- The Revised Common Lectionary
- The United Methodist Revised Common Lectionary
- The Christian Worship Three Year Lectionary (with Supplemental Lectionary)
- The Lutheran Service Book Three Year Lectionary
- and the Book of Common Prayer (1979) Sunday Lectionary
Are the use of lectionaries important to you in your private or public worship? Leave us a comment and tell us why.
Next week we will look at using lectionary resources in Logos 4.
Today’s guest post is by Louis St. Hilaire, Logos Bible Software’s Catholic Product Manager.