Rorate Caeli

The New Lectionary - I

In the Conciliar Constitution [on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium], the introduction of a three-year Lectionary is nowhere spoken of. Through it the reform commission made itself guilty of a crime against nature. A simple calendar year would have been sufficient for all wishes of change. The Consilium [ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia] could have stuck to a yearly cycle, enriching the readings with as many and as varied a choice of collection as one would want without breaking up the natural yearly course.

Instead, the old order of readings was destroyed and a new one introduced, with a great burden and expense of books, in which as many texts as possible could be accommodated, not only from the world of the Church but also-as was widely practiced-from the profane world. Apart from the pastoral difficulties for parishioners' understanding of texts demanding special exegesis, it turned out also as an opportunity -which was seized- to manipulate the retained texts in order to introduce new truths in place of the old. Pastorally unpopular passages-often of fundamental theological and moral significance-were simply eliminated.

A classic example is the text from 1 Cor. 11:27-29 ["Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord."] Here, in the narrative of the institution of the Eucharist, the serious concluding exhortation about the grave consequences of unworthy reception has been consistently left out, even on the Feast of Corpus Christi. The pastoral necessity of that text in the face of today's mass reception without confession and without reverence is obvious.

That blunders could be made in the new readings, above all in the choice of their introductory and concluding words, is exemplified by Klaus Gamber's note on the end of the reading on the first Sunday in Lent of the Reading Cycle for Year A, which speaks of the consequences of Original Sin: "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked." Whereupon the people, performing their duty of lively and active participation, must answer: "Thanks be to God."

Cardinal Stickler
Recollections of a Vatican II Peritus
English translation by Thomas E. Woods
(The Latin Mass Magazine, Winter 1999)


  1. Anonymous4:30 PM

    Remember, they tried to do the same thing with the Breviary, and introduce a two-year cycle.

    I can quite agree with the statement that dangerously selective 'selection' of the readings can damage our understanding of the Sacraments and our duties.

  2. Anonymous5:58 PM

    Will the pope celebrate the extraordinary use?

  3. SC, 51 could be more fruitfully implemented with a weekday lectionary, rather than a Sunday lectionary. Even the General Introduction to the Lectionary, published in 1981, implicitly admits this when it spends much time lauding how much of Sacred Scripture is covered in the new weekday lectionary.

    The only pitfall to the new weekday lectionary (that I am aware of) is that the Lessons/Responsorials are on a two-year cycle in tempus per annum. This is a break with liturgical tradition as no other usage or Rite has a two-year cycle of readings.

    However, any hope of implementing Sacrosanctum Concilium in a traditional fashion will have to tolerate this discrepancy for the time being, as the push for the Sunday lectionary will never be quenched if we don't.

  4. Anonymous:

    "According to authoritative Vatican sources"? Who? "On the First Sunday of Advent"?

    It is all quite hazy... It is also unclear why the president of Latinitas (who is not named - the current president is Don Cleto Pavanetto) is mentioned in the headline...

  5. I wonder what happened to the Last Sunday After Pentecost, at the end of the liturgical year, with its call in the Gospel (Matt.24.15 -35)to meditate on the end of the world and Christ's Second Coming when He will judge all men.

  6. I always notice what seems to be an intentional omission from the Lectionary during Lent. The readings from the weekday Masses truck right along through many central passages from John toward the last half of Lent. John 8 relates a contentious discourse Jesus has with the Jews in the weekday gospel readings during the 5th week of Lent. The gospel readings relate John 8:31-42 on Wednesday then 8:51-59 on Thursday. Verses 43-50 are left out. What happens in that passage, I wonder... Oh, Jesus just tells the Jews he's talking to in verse 44: "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires."

    In the Wednesday's reading are verse 38, "you do what you have heard from your father", and verse 41, "you do what your father did". Without knowing from the passage that Jesus is speaking of the devil, not only does the series of readings seem incomplete, but people are left wondering what in the world Jesus is talking about with the Jews' "father". Then, after skipping verses 43-50 in Thursday's reading, Jesus tells the Jews, "your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day" (56) Oh, so THAT'S who Jesus meant by the Jews' father! He just meant good, old Abraham! Sorry, but Jesus wouldn't have told them they do what hear from their "father" and do what their "father" does if he meant Abraham.

    By the Lectionary's omission of the passage from John, people attending Mass, if they don't know any better, are misled as to the real meaning of Christ's words from this passage.

  7. Cardinal Stickler! Yes!

  8. Anonymous7:50 AM

    Venerdì 27 luglio 2007 il sottoscritto MAURILIO CAVEDINI, Presidente di UNA VOCE VERONA, è stato ricevuto in udienza da S. ECC. REV.MA MONS GIUSEPPE ZENTI, Vescovo di Verona.
    Scopo dell'udienza è quello di chiedere la costituzione formale di una PARROCCHIA PERSONALE IN RITO ROMANO ANTICO, cui sia preposto il sacerdote di formazione tradizionale DON VILMAR PAVESI. L'udienza si è tenuta alle ore 16. Durante l'udienza sono stati avanzati i desiderata dei numerosi cattolici veronesi che seguono la liturgia antica, e in particolare 1) la costituzione di una parrocchia personale di rito romano antico, a fronte delle più di 2000 firme raccolte nel 2003 dalla sezione veronese di Una Voce; 2) la sistemazione canonica del sacerdote don Vilmar Pavesi, originario della diocesi brasiliana di Anapolis, ma presente a Verona dal 2005, sacerdote ordinato more antiquo da mons. Haas, arcivescovo di Vaduz; 3) nel contesto dell'udienza si è pure affrontato il problema della concessione ad un gruppo di luterani della chiesa di S. Pietro Martire (copatrono della diocesi) da parte del suo predecessore Mons. Carraro; a fronte dello scandalo suscitato da tale concessione parecchi sacerdoti veronesi, avevano protestato indirizzando una lettera a Roma, al Cardinal Nicora (già vescovo di Verona); anche i cattolici tradizionalisti si erano mossi con volantinaggi per protestare contro questa scandalosa processione. Mons. Zenti ha definito 'molto discutibile' tale concessione e, sollecitato dal sottoscritto, ha avanzato la possibilità di spostare gli eretici in una chiesa sconsacrata di proprietà del Comune di Verona. Una Voce si è incaricata di avvisare il Sindaco di Verona Flavio Tosi perché faccia le opportune verifiche al riguardo e,, operando di concerto con il Vescovo, si giunga a questa soluzione. Per quel che riguarda le altre questioni in sospeso (parrocchia personale e sistemazione di Don pavesi) si è deciso di riaggiornarsi a fine agosto. L'udienza si è svolta in un clima di cordialità e collaborazione.

  9. Anonymous12:15 PM

    Article 9 section 3 says of Summorum Pontificum says: It is lawful for clerics in holy orders [clericis in sacris] to use even the Roman Breviary promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962. I fined this odd since all clerics in of the Western church are in holy orders. Has the Pope created a canonical lacuna?

  10. Anonymous1:36 PM

    "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked." Whereupon the people, performing their duty of lively and active participation, must answer: "Thanks be to God."

    That is hilarious.

  11. Anonymous2:20 PM

    I fined this odd since all clerics in of the Western church are in holy orders. Has the Pope created a canonical lacuna?

    I think he is referring to the distinction between those in major and minor orders. Since groups such as ICKSP and FSSP still have the minor orders, then the rule would limit them, so that only their members in major orders -- the ones who are required by the law of the Church to say the breviary -- may lawfully use the old breviary.

  12. Anonymous2:21 PM

    How do we know that it is contrary to the laws of nature to have a three-year cycle of readings? This argument of the good Cardinal, with all due respect, is a straw man. There are many criticisms we can make of the new lectionary, and I do agree with many that he presents, but I do not think we can do it on the basis of it being somehow unnatural.

  13. Anonymous2:59 PM

    Re:"I think he is referring to the distinction between those in major and minor orders."


    All Clerics in the Western Church, even those in Traditional communities are in Sacred Orders. The clerical state is entered today through ordination to the diaconate, and this is the case even for the Fraternity, the Institute et all.

  14. Anonymous3:05 PM

    On the Institute's web site ( - scroll down) there is news of their ordinations to the minor orders. My understanding was that, inasmuch as they have the indult to use the minor orders still, then they enter into the clerical state with the reception of tonsure. Are you (anonymous) saying that even though they receive the minor orders, they don't enter the clerical state until ordination to the diaconate?

  15. "How do we know that it is contrary to the laws of nature to have a three-year cycle of readings?"

    What is exactly a "three-year period"? How is it natural? And how can a three-year(ABC)/two-year(I-II) lectionary be considered natural?

    When in the dawn of History men established ways to measure periods of time, natural influences were used: the (solar) day, the (lunar) week, the (lunar) month, the solar year, the lunar year -- all are naturally clear cycles which gave rise to our calendars, as man interpreted nature and used its cycles for the establishment of uniform time periods. That a yearly cycle of readings flows naturally from the yearly customs of man is something that does not need to be proven... Or does it??? East and West, Antioch-Constantinople, Alexandria, Rome... they all established yearly cycles of readings, because that is what makes natural sense.

    What a mess the Church is in when even the most obvious aspects of nature and man are unclear to many.

    Thank you, Cardinal Stickler!

  16. "The Consilium... could have stuck to a yearly cycle, enriching the readings with as many and as varied a choice of collection as one would want without breaking up the natural yearly course."

    The Council did call for opening up more of the Scriptures to the Mass. But the article is correct about the importance of a yearly cycle in tune with a natural order. I'm wondering how this expansion might have more properly been accomplished, within the context of Sunday celebrations. I understand the Ambrosian Rite traditionally had two readings before the Gospel. Is this how it might have been accomplished in a reform of the Roman Rite?

  17. Art. 9, § 3 simply means that all clerics under the legal obligation of praying the Divine Office may (have the faculty) to use the Breviarium Romanum to fulfill that obligation. That is it. That is a natural consequence of the fact that the "forma extraordinaria" has never been abrogated, but the Supreme Legislator saw the need to make it clear. It does not mean that only they "lawfully" make use of it... Let us end with this "indultarian" mentality, please! Please!

    As for orders and societies of Apostolic Life (the legal shape of most organizations of priests which make exclusive use of the ancient form), Canon Law already predicted that additional obligations could be established in their Constitutions (as they surely do regarding those in their houses of formation who have not entered the clerical state).

  18. Anonymous10:32 AM

    There have been many mistakes, both well intentioned and deliberate with regards to the liturgy, breviary, and readings since Vatican II. There have been monumental abuses, deviations, experimentations etc. in nearly all asspects of Catholic Life since Vatican II.
    I think that Pope Benedict XVI knows this very well, and has made a first step to correct it by issuing his Motu Proprio for the return of the Tridentine Latin Mass.
    I also think He fully knows, as does Cardinal Stickler and Msgr. Gamber, the damange done to the cycle of readings, the omissions, deletions etc. done deliberatly.
    The "Concilium" cadre of dissidents, profressives, radical ecumenists etc.who destroyed the Mass and the Breviary and cyle of readings after Vatican II lead by Bugnini and others are finally being exposed very negatively. Almost overnight, their "crimes" have been revealed. It is astounding that lately I have heard no one of importance from the Vatican coming to their defense, or speaking positively of the liturgical developments etc. since Vatican II with conviction and faith. This is a very telling developement...and it is very good.
    It the time of JP II, one would never even dare think of the Tridentine Latin Mass!!
    I would not be surprised if bit by bit, the "reforms" of Vatican II...first with regards to the Liturgy and the Mass, and then with ecumenism (as is happening now), and then other areas of Catholic life (seminary formation, religious Life and religious Orders, etc.) will be repudiated by the highest authority in the Church.
    It's all coming out now. Benedict XVI started the ball moving eith his Motu Proprio....the rest will soon follow.

  19. Speaking of crimes against nature (and against nature's God), I have the two volume Flannery edition of the Vatican II conciliar and post-conciliar documents. One short document states that the bishops of the world have no objection, in principle, to reformulating the (secular) calendar to a ten day week.

    I'll read it again when I get home. It blew my mind.

  20. Anonymous8:22 PM

    "I would not be surprised if bit by bit, the "reforms" of Vatican II...will be repudiated by the highest authority in the Church."

    Exaudi nos, Domine.


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