Rorate Caeli

Not Just More Scripture, But Different Scripture — Comparing the Old and New Lectionaries

The following study was completed in March 2016 and subsequently published as the Foreword to Matthew Hazell's remarkable reference work "Index Lectionum: A Comparative Table of Readings for the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite." The passage of time under the reign of Pope Francis has meanwhile witnessed the welcome development of a large number of Catholics of good will beginning to wake up to the magnitude of the rupture effected by the liturgical reform. Because not everyone has this volume or expects to have it, I've been encouraged to share the Foreword with a wider audience. Nevertheless, I encourage serious students of liturgy to purchase the Index Lectionum itself, because it is a formidable research tool.

Not Just More Scripture, But Different Scripture

by Peter A. Kwasniewski

As Matthew Hazell notes in his “Introduction and User’s Guide” below, this Index Lectionum may be used by any student of the Roman Rite, whether in its classical form or its modern form, who wishes to see exactly how the books, chapters, and verses of Sacred Scripture end up being utilized (or not utilized) in the readings given at Mass. For that function alone, this volume is a tool of obvious and immense value. But this Index also facilitates, in fact for the first time, fruitful scholarly comparisons between the old and new lectionaries. In this foreword, I will outline the kind of results that such comparisons yield, in the hopes that others, too, will be inspired to take up this important research.

Comparing Old and New

When the lectionary for the modern Roman Rite was first promulgated in 1969,[1] it was greeted with copious jubilation and countless paeans lauding its merits. As I have noted elsewhere, there are undoubted gains in the new lectionary, such as the splendid selection of prophetic readings for the ferias of Advent (mirroring the ancient custom of ferial readings for Lent), the enrichment of ferial readings in Paschaltide, and the occasional felicitous pairing of certain Old Testament and New Testament pericopes, bringing out the interrelationship of the covenants.

Surprisingly, however, no scholarship carefully compared the revised multi-year lectionary with the centuries-old annual lectionary it replaced. We have waited close to half a century for the opportunity to hold in our hands a single resource that indicates, with painstaking detail, just what the reformers added and, perhaps of far greater interest, what they chose to omit that had once been present in the Church’s worship. Thus equipped, we are at last in an optimal position to carry further the kind of comparative studies on the lectionary that Dr. Lauren Pristas has perfected in regard to the collects of the Mass.[2]

Responding to Sacrosanctum Concilium §24, §35, and §51, the new lectionary includes a far greater quantity of Scripture. Nevertheless, its novelty is not limited to the realm of quantity but extends to reorderings,[3] reductions, verse edits, and deemphases or omissions of passages that were contained in the older lectionary. There are, in other words, not only additive changes but subtractive ones as well, a fact that so far seems to have escaped the notice of most students of the liturgy.[4] Where pericopes are generally the same, exact verses may differ; where the new lectionary omits verses or chapters, the old may include them, or vice versa.[5] Mr. Hazell gives the example of the use of readings from chapters 5 and 10 of the Wisdom of Solomon, prominent in the usus antiquior but entirely absent from the new lectionary.[6]

One commentator notes, with concern, a number of passages that, although not present in the old missal, ought by rights to be present in the new lectionary because of the more or less systematic reading-through of the NT books. He notices that the lectionary seems to go out of its way to avoid controversial passages.[7] In other words, an omission carries greater weight in the new lectionary, which is attempting to cover a lot more ground, than it does in the ancient lectionary, which has different aims in view.[8] A fine example is Acts 5:1–11, when Ananias and Saphira are struck dead for lying and fraud. While this passage never appeared in the old rite, neither, for that matter, does a great deal of Acts; whereas in the new lectionary, where so much of Acts does appear, the skipping of 5:1–11 seems to speak to us of a certain philosophy behind the compilation.

Granting that this selectivity is of interest, more interesting still are those instances where passages of Scripture that do already have a place in the old missal were deliberately excluded in the new lectionary. There is something more telling about the suppression of centuries-old texts than about the selectivity of a committee trying to fit in as many readings as they can.

Old Testament Omissions

Some of the many examples of Old Testament passages included in the traditional lectionary but excluded from the revised lectionary are Jacob’s denial of the blessing to Esau (Gen. 27:30–39) and his blessing upon Joseph (Gen. 49:22–26); the Lord’s promise to destroy the pagan nations with Israel’s entry into the Promised Land (Dt. 11:22–25)[9]; Moses’ introductory words to his canticle (Dt. 31:22–30)[10]; the story of King Solomon adjudicating between the two harlots (1 Kgs. 3:16–28)[11]; Elisha’s miracle of the multiplied oil for the widow of a prophet (2 Kgs. 4:1–7); Judith’s praise of God for the defeat of her enemies (Judith 13:17-20)[12]; much of the praise of the “valiant woman” in Proverbs 31 [13]; Isaiah’s prophecy that even Egypt—the symbol of evil and sin in the OT—will be converted, healed, and saved by the Lord in messianic times (Isa. 19:20–22); Jeremiah’s prayer that God would heal and save him, while destroying “with a double destruction” those who have forsaken the “fountain of living waters” (Jer. 17:13–18)[14]; Ezekiel’s vision of the four living creatures with four faces, namely, those of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (Ezk. 1:10–14)[15]; Ezekiel’s statement that “the soul that sinneth, the same shall die”; the visitation of the angel to the three children in the fiery furnace (Dan. 5:47–51)[16]; one of the great prayers of Daniel (Dan. 9:15–19) and, immediately following it, the apparition of the Archangel Gabriel (Dan. 9:21–26)[17]; the story of Daniel in the lion’s den (Dan. 14:27–42); and the prayer with which Nehemiah offers sacrifice in 2 Maccabees (2 Mac. 1:23–27).

Loss of Johannine Material

It is when we come to the New Testament that we find the most notable examples of a change in the lex orandi. If it turned out that only a few passages from the Gospels and Epistles that had been read for centuries at Mass had failed to make it into the new lectionary, one might attribute it to oversight or the inevitable upheavals of new construction. When, however, one views the number and especially the character of texts that were read and are still read annually in the usus antiquior but were excluded from the lectionary of the Mass of Paul VI (or, alternatively, greatly reduced in prominence or frequency), one cannot avoid raising questions about why such changes were made and what effects they have on the formation of the faithful who attend the liturgy and on the clergy who preach on the readings.

An instructive case of the scissors-and-paste methods of the Coetus XI can be found in the pericope John 7:1–31. These verses are all read in the older lectionary: vv. 1–13 on Passion Tuesday, and vv. 14–31 on Tuesday of Week 4 of Lent. In the new lectionary, however, the reading is minced into John 7:1–2, 10, 25–30, and read on Friday of Week 4 of Lent.[18] Below, in red, are the verses that were suppressed in the transition:

 1 After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for he would not walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him.
 2 Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand.
 3 And his brethren said to him: Pass from hence, and go into Judea; that thy disciples also may see thy works which thou dost.
 4 For there is no man that doth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, manifest thyself to the world.
 5 For neither did his brethren believe in him.
 6 Then Jesus said to them: My time is not yet come; but your time is always ready.
 7 The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth: because I give testimony of it, that the works thereof are evil.
 8 Go you up to this festival day, but I go not up to this festival day: because my time is not accomplished.
 9 When he had said these things, he himself stayed in Galilee.

 10 But after his brethren were gone up, then he also went up to the feast, not openly, but, as it were, in secret.
 11 The Jews therefore sought him on the festival day, and said: Where is he?
 12 And there was much murmuring among the multitude concerning him. For some said: He is a good man. And others said: No, but he seduceth the people.
 13 Yet no man spoke openly of him, for fear of the Jews.
14 Now about the midst of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.
15 And the Jews wondered, saying: How doth this man know letters, having never learned?
16 Jesus answered them, and said: My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
17 If any man do the will of him; he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
18 He that speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh the glory of him that sent him, he is true, and there is no injustice in him.
19 Did Moses not give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law?
20 Why seek you to kill me? The multitude answered, and said: Thou hast a devil; who seeketh to kill thee?
21 Jesus answered, and said to them: One work I have done; and you all wonder:
22 Therefore, Moses gave you circumcision (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers); and on the sabbath day you circumcise a man.
23 If a man receive circumcision on the sabbath day, that the law of Moses may not be broken; are you angry at me because I have healed the whole man on the sabbath day?
24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge just judgment. 

25 Some therefore of Jerusalem said: Is not this he whom they seek to kill?
26 And behold, he speaketh openly, and they say nothing to him. Have the rulers known for a truth, that this is the Christ?
27 But we know this man, whence he is: but when the Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.
28 Jesus therefore cried out in the temple, teaching, and saying: You both know me, and you know whence I am: and I am not come of myself; but he that sent me, is true, whom you know not.
29 I know him, because I am from him, and he hath sent me.
30 They sought therefore to apprehend him: and no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.
31 But of the people many believed in him and said: When the Christ cometh, shall he do more miracles than this man doth?

The next five verses, John 7:32–36, traditionally read on Monday of Passion Week, were likewise excluded from the new lectionary:

The rulers and Pharisees sent ministers to apprehend him. Jesus therefore said to them: Yet a little while I am with you: and then I go to him that sent me. You shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither you cannot come. The Jews therefore said among themselves: Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? What is this saying that he hath said: You shall seek me, and shall not find me; and where I am, you cannot come?

John 8:46–49, which had always been read on Passion Sunday as part of the Gospel (Jn 8:46–59) are similarly excised:

Which of you shall convince me of sin? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me? He that is of God, heareth the words of God. Therefore you hear them not, because you are not of God. The Jews therefore answered, and said to him: Do not we say well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered: I have not a devil: but I honour my Father, and you have dishonoured me. But I seek not my own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

The three poignant verses of John 12:17–19, read in the usus antiquior on Saturday of Passion Week, are also gone without trace:

The multitude therefore gave testimony, which was with him, when he called Lazarus out of the grave, and raised him from the dead. For which reason also the people came to meet him, because they heard that he had done this miracle. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves: Do you see that we prevail nothing? behold, the whole world is gone after him.

It is difficult to see what good is to be gained from excising so many verses of the Word of God that had been diligently proclaimed for so many centuries. It is one thing to augment a collection of readings, and quite another to delete its historic content, which, as found in the solemn, public, objective witness of the sacred liturgy, had already been part of the Church’s inerrant lex orandi and therefore her lex credendi.[19] 

Alarming from a Mariological point of view are the deep cuts made in the use of John 19:25–27, the key text in the NT that manifests the Church’s constant faith in Our Lady’s spiritual maternity over every member of the Church:

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.

In the older form of the Mass, this Gospel is read each year for the Seven Sorrows of the BVM (September 15), the Commemoration of the Seven Sorrows of the BVM (Friday after Passion Sunday), the Immaculate Heart of the BVM (August 22), the Common of Our Lady on Saturdays (fourth formulary), and feasts celebrated in particular places, e.g., Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces (May 8). A Catholic frequenting the usus antiquior would hear this Gospel several times a year. At an Ordinary Form Mass, he is likely, at best, to hear these verses only once, in passing, on Good Friday, since all other uses of it are optional and buried among numerous options (it is, for instance, the 19th Gospel option for Masses for the Dead and the 12th Gospel option for the Common of the BVM). In this distancing of the public worship of the Church from the cult of the Mother of God—certainly not the only example of it that may be found in the reformed liturgical books—we can sense the tactics of the conciliar liberal wing who, during the so-called “Black Week” at the Second Vatican Council, complained about Paul VI’s bestowal of the title Mater Ecclesiae on Mary, considering it a major ecumenical faux pas.[20] 

Omission of Morally Demanding Texts

Perhaps the most outstanding example of a deliberate suppression of revealed truth, and one that is all the more notable in light of present-day confusion on the subject, is the new Lectionary’s studied avoidance of 1 Corinthians 11:27–29, St. Paul’s solemn warning against unworthy communions—a problem that plagues modern Catholicism no less than, indeed rather more than, it plagued the Christians to whom the Apostle was writing. The above text is read twice each year in the traditional Latin Mass: once on Maundy Thursday (where the Lesson is 1 Cor. 11:20–32), and again on Corpus Christi (where the Lesson is 1 Cor. 11:23–29). The editors of the new lectionary had to go out of their way twice, therefore, to excise these verses, ensuring that they would never be proclaimed:

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.

Let me repeat: these verses are not found anywhere in the new Lectionary. To make the contrast even more startling, the Communion antiphon of Corpus Christi in the usus antiquior, which must be read or sung aloud (we are not, thankfully, in the fantasy world of alius cantus aptus), is none other than 1 Corinthians 11:26–27, thus reinforcing the Lesson’s call to self-examination. A Catholic who attends the usus antiquior will therefore be in a position to ponder this teaching of the Apostle at least three times every Church year.[21] In addition, the Votive Mass of the Most Holy Eucharist, which is not seldom used by traditionally-minded clergy, repeats this reading and its parallel antiphon. It is nearly impossible to dwell within the ambit of the usus antiquior without being confronted by this teaching of the Apostle, whereas a Catholic who spends his or her entire life in the Novus Ordo sphere may never once encounter it.[22] This methodical elimination of one of St. Paul’s gravest admonitions plays smoothly into the hands of those who wish to redefine morality from the ground up, and with it, sacramental theology.

Suppressed, too, are certain verses underlining the gravity of moral precepts. The old liturgy every year reads 1 Corinthians 10:6–13 on the 9th Sunday after Pentecost, but the new lectionary, for the Third Sunday of Lent in Year C, quietly omits verses 7–9, which are never read at all:

Neither become ye idolaters, as some of them, as it is written: The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed fornication, and there fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ: as some of them tempted, and perished by the serpents.

After all, a non-negotiable requirement of the Christian faith is the ascetical battle against disordered passions, against “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” One of St. Paul’s most potent statements of the necessity of asceticism, 2 Timothy 2:4–5, read in the usus antiquior as part of the Lesson for St. Alphonsus Liguori on August 2, was expunged: “No man, being a soldier to God, entangleth himself with secular businesses; that he may please him to whom he hath engaged himself. For he also that striveth for the mastery, is not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”

Along the same lines, it seems surprising, to say the least, that 1 Peter 2:11–19a, which is the Lesson on the Third Sunday after Easter in the traditional Mass, has been excluded from the revised lectionary:

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, to refrain yourselves from carnal desires which war against the soul, having your conversation good among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by the good works, which they shall behold in you, glorify God in the day of visitation. Be ye subject therefore to every human creature for God’s sake: whether it be to the king as excelling; or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of the good: for so is the will of God, that by doing well you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not as making liberty a cloak for malice, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy before God. 

A text that could be assigned to the category of an endangered species in the modern Catholic liturgy is 2 Corinthians 10:17–11:2:

But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he who commendeth himself, is approved, but he, whom God commendeth. Would to God you could bear with some little of my folly: but do bear with me. For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God. For I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

This passage is read many times each year in the usus antiquior—for St. Agnes, St. Martha, St. Lucy, and as the first epistle given for the Common of Non-Martyr Virgins—but is likely to be almost never heard in the Novus Ordo, since it is an optional reading for two optional memorials, and is the equally optional fourth choice for an optional reading from the Common of Holy Men & Women.[23]

While we are on the subject of chaste virgins, I was startled to discover that Revelation 14:1–5, traditionally and appropriately read for the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28, contained a sentiment that the revisers seemingly could not stomach: “These are they who were not defiled with women: for they are virgins” (v. 4a). Out it went, therefore, to avoid giving offense to the hypersexualized Zeitgeist.[24]

Thus for the concupiscible passions; now for the irascible. The good advice of St. Paul in Ephesians 4:23–28, including the well-known phrases “Be angry and sin not” and “Do not let the sun go down on your anger,” is read every year as the Lesson for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost in the usus antiquior. In the modern Roman Rite, however, these words along with several key verses (Eph. 4:25–28) are expunged:

Wherefore putting away lying, speak; ye the truth every man with his neighbour; for we are members one of another. Be angry, and sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your anger. Give not place to the devil. He that stole, let him now steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have something to give to him that suffereth need.[25]

A similar feeling of alarm must have gripped the reformers when they came across Romans 12:17–21, read every year in the usus antiquior as part of the Lesson for the Third Sunday after Epiphany. These verses were therefore excised:

To no man rendering evil for evil. Providing good things, not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as is in you, have peace with all men. Revenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved; but give place unto wrath, for it is written: Revenge is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord. But if thy enemy be hungry, give him to eat; if he thirst, give him to drink. For, doing this, thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.

The Lesson for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Galatians 5:25–6:10, is a magnificent call to meekness, humility, generosity, and beneficence, with a famous sentiment about sowing and reaping, and an almost equally famous reminder that we are to work for the benefit of our fellow Catholics first and foremost. This makes it all the more curious that the first ten verses of Galatians 6 were removed from the new lectionary:

Brethren, and if a man be overtaken in any fault, you, who are spiritual, instruct such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens; and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ. For if any man think himself to be some thing, whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every one prove his own work, and so he shall have glory in himself only, and not in another. For every one shall bear his own burden. And let him that is instructed in the word, communicate to him that instructeth him, in all good things. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting. And in doing good, let us not fail. For in due time we shall reap, not failing. Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

Other “Difficult” Texts

We also find instances where the omission of verses ends up muddling the argument of the text. On Sunday in the Christmas Octave, the traditional lectionary appoints Galatians 4:1–7, which comprises one full thought, with a beginning, middle, and end. In the new lectionary, the reading is transferred to January 1, and verses 1–3 are dropped, with only 4–7 read. It surely could not have been due to excessive lengthiness on the part of a reading of seven verses. The editors are also quite confident that they can do a better job of presenting an argument than the inspired author can. Thus, while the usus antiquior reads Galatians 4:22–31 every year for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, the usus recentior transfers this reading to Monday of Week 28 per annum in Year II, cuisinarts it into vv. 22–24, 26–27, 31, and adds 5:1. As with John 7, so here, too, we sense a certain embarrassment about the omitted verses (in red):

22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman.
23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise.
24 Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar.
25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 
26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
27 For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and shout, you who are not with labor pains; for the desolate has more children than she who has a husband.”
28 Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.
29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now.
30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave and her son; for the son of the slave shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 

31 So, brethren, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
[5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.]

Such omissions, as well as the editing of John 7–8 noted earlier, seem to be motivated by the concerns of interreligious dialogue. Presumably the same accounts for the excision of 1 Thessalonians 2:14–17, which is read on the traditional calendar on August 8:

For you, brethren, are become followers of the churches of God which are in Judea, in Christ Jesus: for you also have suffered the same things from your own coutrymen, even as they have from the Jews, Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and the prophets, and have persecuted us, and please not God, and are adversaries to all men; Prohibiting us to speak to the Gentiles, that they may be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath of God is come upon them to the end.

Some texts seem to have been omitted because they talk about scary things, issue stern warnings about the end times, or speak too openly of God’s justice and vengeance. One example is 2 Thessalonians 2:1–8, read for Ember Saturday of Advent in the usus antiquior but omitted from the new lectionary:

And we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and of our gathering together unto him: that you be not easily moved from your sense nor be terrified, neither by spirit nor by word nor by epistle as sent from us, as if the day of the Lord were at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and is lifted up above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself as if he were God. Remember you not that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now you know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh: only that he who now holdeth do hold, until he be taken out of the way. And then that wicked one shall be revealed: whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.

In the OF, this is changed into 2:1–3a, 14–17 (with vv. 16–17 added because they speak of “comfort” and “good grace,” and ‘modern man’ seemingly can’t cope without frequent mention of them!). Note that 2:1–8 is the only reading from 2 Thessalonians in the EF, so Coetus XI really went out of its way to snip out vv. 3b–8.[26]

In this category of uncomfortable texts that speak of the requirements of faith and the just judgment of God on unbelievers belongs 1 Peter 2:6–8, which is included in the Lesson for Easter Saturday in the classical lectionary (1 Peter 2:1–10) but altogether omitted in the new[27]:

Wherefore it is said in the scripture: Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious. And he that shall believe in him, shall not be confounded. To you therefore that believe, he is honour: but to them that believe not, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is made the head of the corner: And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of scandal, to them who stumble at the word, neither do believe, whereunto also they are set.

The Lesson for St. John Leonardi on October 9 in the usus antiquior, 2 Corinthians 4:1–6, 15–18, includes these two verses: “And if our gospel be also hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of unbelievers, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:3–4). The revisers made sure to omit them in their vast new lectionary. Similarly, 1 Peter 4:17–19, read in many contexts in the usus antiquior,[28] went missing in the new lectionary:

For the time is, that judgment should begin at the house of God. And if first at us, what shall be the end of them that believe not the gospel of God? And if the just man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them also that suffer according to the will of God, commend their souls in good deeds to the faithful Creator.

The lectionary editors struck out Matthew 20:16b: “For many are called, but few chosen.”[29] In the usus antiquior, on the other hand, Matthew 20:1–16 is always read on Septuagesima Sunday, fittingly at the start of pre-Lent, when we are reminded that we are to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling.”

As we are reminded each year on December 6, the feast of St. Nicholas, “Be not led away with various and strange doctrines . . . For we have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come” (Heb. 13:9, 14)—or, we would be reminded, if we were attending an usus antiquior Mass. In the new lectionary, these verses were displaced into the optional readings for the Dedication of an Altar.

Synoptic Shifts

As has been noticed by many, the ancient reading cycle of the usus antiquior relies heavily on the Gospel of Matthew; it is, so to speak, the “Gospel of choice.” The editors of the new lectionary set themselves the task of incorporating large portions of all three synoptic Gospels into the multi-year cycle, but in executing this plan, they did not, contrary to logical expectations and doctrinal presuppositions, leave intact all of the synoptic passages that had been traditionally read.

Now, when we look at sections of Matthew, Mark, and Luke that are present in the EF but omitted in the OF, we can often find synoptic parallels to those omitted sections present elsewhere in the OF lectionary. Our observations and questions thus become more complicated than “Matthew XX:yy is present in the EF but not the OF.” We must consider questions like these:

• Does the Gospel passage in question have a parallel in the others?
• Are the parallels organized differently in the other Gospels (e.g., transposition of events, sayings, parables)?
• Are there differences in content between the two/three/four accounts (for, of course, there is unique material in each)?
• Do any of these differences mean that there will be particular content read in the EF that is not read in the parallel OF reading, and vice versa?
• Is one account more “complete” than the others, and is that the one which is read?
• How often are parallels read, and on what days of the year?

To bring out the complexity of the problems, let us examine two passages from Matthew (18:1–10 and 21:10–17) that do appear, albeit in expurgated form, in the revised lectionary. Their parallels are used elsewhere, and yet the parallels do not contain peculiarly Matthaean material that is omitted.

In Matthew 18:1–10, where the disciples ask Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, vv. 6–9 are not in the OF lectionary, but are paralleled in Mark 9:42–47 (= Mt. 18:6, 8–9) and Luke 17:1–2 (= Mt. 18:7, 6). Mark 9:41–50 is read on Thursday of Week 7 per annum (I, II), with Luke 17:1–6 read on Monday of Week 32 per annum (I, II); these are the only occurrences of the parallels in the OF. But Luke omits the “cut off your hand/foot/eye” sayings, and Mark omits the “temptations/woe” saying. Thus, Matthew’s account can be considered the more “complete” account, and arguably the better suited for liturgical use as a result. So, in the EF we get the whole lot (as it were) twice a year (and in quick succession: September 29 and October 2), whereas in the OF the passage is rather splintered and split into various parts over the cycle of readings.[30] And of the times Matthew 18:1–10 is used in the EF, one of them no longer exists in the OF (St. Michael having been merged with SS. Gabriel and Raphael into one feast day with completely different readings), and the EF reading has obviously been trimmed in the OF for the Holy Guardian Angels.[31]

Regarding Matthew 21:10–17, where Jesus cleanses the temple, vv. 12–17 are not in the OF lectionary, but vv. 12–13 are paralleled in Mark 11:15–17, Luke 19:45–46 and John 2:14–22, and v. 17 is paralleled in Mark 11:11. Mark 11:11–26 is read on Friday of Week 8 per annum (I, II), Luke 19:45–48 on Friday of Week 33 per annum (I, II), and John 2:13-25 on the Third Sunday of Lent (B) (with 2:13–22 also read for the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica on November 9, along with two other optional occasions). All these parallels are broadly similar; Luke is a little light on some of the detail, but the gist is there. However, Matthew 21:14–16 (Jesus healing the blind and lame in the Temple, “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings,” etc.) have no parallel in the other Gospels. This means that the content of vv. 14–16 is missing entirely from the OF lectionary. So, in the shift from old to new, we have gone from reading Matthew, Luke, and John in the EF to reading Mark, Luke, and John in the OF, and in this case the actual content of the readings has been reduced as a result.

In connection with the cleansing of the temple, a further note is warranted. In the EF, both the Matthaean account (21:10–17) and the Johannine account (2:13–25) of the temple cleansing are read during Lent, on Tuesday of Week 1 and Monday of Week 4 respectively. Moreover, Luke’s account of the temple cleansing, along with Jesus weeping over Jerusalem beforehand (19:41–47), is read on the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost. So we have gone from two accounts of the temple-cleansing read every year in Lent (Mt, Jn) and one every year in the Time after Pentecost (Lk) in the EF, to two read every year on per annum weekdays (Mk, Lk) and one read once every three years in Lent and every year on a feast day (Jn) in the OF. Examples such as these indicate the intricacy and subtlety of the comparisons that need to be made if we are to move beyond impressionistic overviews to a full engagement with the differences in lex orandi found in the two Roman lectionaries.

Reductive Redistribution 

A more wide-ranging topic of investigation would be the way in which millennia-old texts associated with major days of the calendar were either subjected to heavy editing, moved elsewhere, or both. A few examples will suffice.

The traditional Lesson for Christmas Eve is Romans 1:1–6. This reading, however, was moved to the Fourth Sunday of Advent (A) and Monday of Week 28 per annum (I), with the consequence that both its prominence and its frequency of use decrease. Stunningly, while the classical Roman Rite offers Hebrews 1:1–12 as the Christmas Day Lesson, as has been the case for well over a millennium, the modern Roman Rite shortens the reading to Hebrews 1:1–6, with verses 7–12 never picked up elsewhere.[32]

Many Pauline texts that were once fixed in place annually for Sundays after Pentecost were redistributed to weekdays. The Lesson for the Last Sunday after Pentecost, Colossians 1:9–14, was shunted off to Thursday of Week 22 per annum in Year I. The marvelous resumé of St. Paul’s sufferings (2 Cor. 11:19–12:9), appointed every year for Sexagesima as a way of preparing the minds of the faithful to embrace ascetical discipline during Lent, is split up in the new lectionary into a couple of weekday readings that occur every other year. The Lesson for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost every year, Galatians 3:16–22, vanished from the new lectionary, probably because it is dense and hard to understand, and we can’t have any of that going on.[33]

The text of 1 Peter 5:6–11, which includes the imperative “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist ye, strong in faith,” etc., was moved from the Third Sunday after Pentecost to St. Mark on April 25.

Given the contemporary shortage of clergy, it is noteworthy that the great passage in Luke 10 (vv. 1–9) where Our Lord sends out the seventy-two disciples and tells them to beg for more laborers to go out into the harvest is read two or three times a year in the Ordinary Form,[34] as compared with about ten times each year in the Extraordinary Form.[35] This would seem to be one of those passages that deserves frequent proclamation, as it stirs up the prayers of the faithful to pray for priestly and religious vocations.

Omission of Sparkling Details

Losses of fine sparkling details can justly be lamented. In the usus antiquior, Philippians 4:3, “I entreat thee also, my sincere companion, help those women who have laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement and the rest of my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life,” is part of the Lesson read for the feast of St. Clement on November 23 (and is also included in the Lesson for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost). In the new lectionary, the verse is non-existent.[36]

The wonderful passage 2 Corinthians 8:16–24, traditionally understood to be speaking of St. Luke, “the brother, whose praise is in the gospel through all the churches,” and read every year in the usus antiquior as the Lesson for St. Luke’s feast on October 18, was removed.[37]

As if anxious about the grim realism of the text, the new lectionary cuts out two verses (18–19) of the pericope from the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles concerning the appointment of St. Matthias to fill in Judas’s place (Acts 1:15–26): “And he indeed hath possessed a field of the reward of iniquity, and being hanged, burst asunder in the midst: and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: so that the same field was called in their tongue, Haceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.” At Mass in the usus antiquior, the entire pericope is always read.[38] 

As for aesthetics, on the Solemnity of All Saints, the symbolic and sonorous periods of vv. 5–8 of Revelation 7:2–12, “Of the tribe of N. were twelve thousand signed”—always read in due course at the usus antiquior—are, in the new lectionary, suppressed seemingly out of a desire to spare the congregation the weariness of poetic repetition. Perhaps this was seen as akin to other instances of “useless repetition” that were purged from the liturgy, in the interests of modern efficiency.

Further Research

Changes like the ones just catalogued are easy to see in the Index Lectionum, making it a most powerful tool for the next wave of research, which should concern itself, among other tasks, with investigating the theological and spiritual effects of reshuffling, editing, demoting, or excluding scriptural texts that had been prominent in the worship life of Catholics for centuries, and, in many cases, well over a thousand years. It is difficult to see how omissions and renovations of this magnitude, in the midst of a vast increase in total quantity of Scripture, can be said to have conformed to the principle enunciated in Sacrosanctum Concilium §23 and agreed upon nearly unanimously by the Council Fathers: “There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.”

While it may be the most fundamental matter, the inclusion or exclusion of texts does not exhaust the questions to be researched. More subtle questions involve how the text of Scripture is presented to the faithful—with what kind of regularity of exposure, in the companionship of which other texts, antiphons, or ceremonies, and so forth.[39] The old lectionary, being annual, gives to certain readings two or three times the prominence that they receive in a cycle where they appear only once every two or three years.

Moreover, the usus antiquior, rather than following a system of successive lections independent (for the most part) from the sanctoral cycle, habitually privileges the celebration of saints’ feasts and connects readings with saints. Hence, the perfectly apt and poignantly evocative readings given in the Commons for the various categories of saint are heard many times each year by those who attend the traditional form, certainly far more often than they will be heard in the modern form. An example, chosen at random, is the text of Matthew 5:13–19, which is read whenever a Doctor of the Church is celebrated—something that will happen over two dozen times annually. In the revised lectionary, on the other hand, this passage is never required to be read, standing as an optional reading in the Common of Doctors and for a small number of saints’ feasts—options that many Catholics will never hear exercised, due to the widespread tendency, encouraged by the very rubrics of the revised lectionary, to follow the predetermined cycle of readings unless the Ordo demands otherwise.

Such topics call for probing study, theological reflection, and pastoral discernment. Mr. Hazell’s comprehensive charts place in the hands of serious students of liturgy the tools needed to evaluate the gains and losses of the modern lectionary against the backdrop of the lectionary it was designed to supplant. Such tools are especially valuable today, when the Church is witnessing (and, indeed, in many respects fostering) a worldwide revival of the classical Roman Rite or usus antiquior, bringing the old cycle of readings back into regular use and compelling attention to be paid to the stark contrasts between old and new lectionaries.[40] Indeed, publishers are reissuing homiletic and catechetical materials based on the traditional lectionary for the practical benefit of clergy and laity.[41] It behooves all lovers of liturgy to get past the axioms of yesteryear (such as “more Scripture is always better”) and to ponder more deeply the merits and demerits of the case.

Readers should take note that Mr. Hazell created and runs a website, “Lectionary Study Aids,”[42] to make available an abundance of lectionary resources—including more comparative charts, many hard-to-find scholarly articles, and complete scans of the Acta synodalia for the First Session of the Second Vatican Council. For those who are pursuing research on lectionaries, the site is indispensable.


As we have seen, there are a fair number of passages of the Word of God that used to be read every year or multiple times in a year that were marginalized in or excluded altogether from the new lectionary and are therefore rarely or never proclaimed in the modern Roman Rite. In short, the new lectionary does not merely present more Scripture, but different Scripture—and that, not only in terms of material content but also in terms of the liturgical pedagogy by which the faithful are exposed with greater or lesser frequency to various inspired books and the images and doctrines they contain. Add to this the fact that the readings of the usus antiquior are in almost every instance mandatory whereas many in the new lectionary are optional, and one can see how different the actual outcome will be.

In an interview he gave to America in October 2014, Cardinal Francis George spoke about the defects of the old ICEL translation under which the Church in English-speaking countries languished for decades:

Since the liturgy, along with Sacred Scripture, is the primary carrier of the tradition that unites us to Christ, the loss of the theology of grace, the domestication of God, the paraphrasing that deliberately omitted nuances of understanding, the deliberate omission of biblical references in the liturgical text itself, etc., left the church for forty years without a way of worship that adequately expressed our faith.[43]

That “etc.” is the most tantalizing word in an already weighty sentence. For, as the foregoing pages have indicated, it was not merely a poor translation that left the Church without a way of public worship that adequately expressed her faith; it was also, and continues to be, the suppression or downplaying of major elements in the doctrine of Sacred Scripture that had been taught on a yearly basis for centuries, stretching back to the age of the Fathers. Pierre Rousselot conveys the gravity of this fact when he writes: “Sins against dogma are the most grievous of all, and errors concerning ideas are more dangerous than those concerning men. Take away dogma and you take God away; to touch dogma is to touch God. To sin against dogma is to sin against God.”[44] Romano Guardini applies this to the Church’s liturgy: “Prayer is beneficial only when it rests on the bedrock of truth. This is not meant in the purely negative sense that it must be free from error; in addition to this, it must spring from the fullness of truth.”[45] It is thus difficult to disagree with Fr. Cekada’s conclusion: “Under the guise of presenting more Scripture, the reformers in fact presented less of its actual message. . . . As a result, the teachings that have disappeared will seem of little import to the average believer—if he is even aware that they existed at all.”[46]

Father Adrien Nocent, one of the experts for the revised lectionary, observed that it “is destined in the long run, but inevitably, to change the theological mentality and very spirituality of the Catholic people.”[47] But what if a lover of the Church’s liturgy, without denying the possibility of judicious development, does not wish to lose the “theological mentality and very spirituality of the Catholic people” as these have been transmitted to us through cherished ecclesiastical traditions? It seems that our times are once again receptive to the counsel of the Prophet Jeremiah: “Thus saith the Lord: Stand ye on the ways, and see and ask for the old paths which is the good way, and walk ye in it: and you shall find refreshment for your souls” (Jer 6:16).

The present Index Lectionum is, above all else and before all else, a labor of love from a Catholic scholar who, in harmony with the best of the Liturgical Movement, is deeply committed to living the vita liturgica in its fullness and sharing it with others. His work stands in service of that great nexus of mysteries about which the Second Vatican Council eloquently said: “Liturgia est culmen ad quod actio Ecclesiae tendit et simul fons unde omnis eius virtus emanat”—the liturgy is the apex to which the Church’s activity tends and, at the same time, the font whence all her power emanates.

More articles critical of the new lectionary from various angles:

"Problems with the Reformed Lectionary: A Summary"
"A Tale of Two Lectionaries: Qualitative versus Quantitative Measures"
"Is Reading More Scripture at Mass Always Better?"
"The Omission that Haunts the Church — 1 Corinthians 11:27-29"
"A Great Example of an Expurgated Reading in the New Lectionary"
"Sacrosanctum Concilium and the New Lectionary"


[1] A revised and expanded version appeared in 1981.

[2] Although not the only scholar working in this area, Pristas has published work noteworthy for its methodological rigor, exhaustive detail, and penetrating observations; see especially her book The Collects of the Roman Missals (London: Bloomsbury, 2013). With regard to the lectionary, I have attempted an initial study or, if you will, a prolegomenon to future studies: “The Reform of the Lectionary,” in Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Issues and Perspectives, ed. Alcuin Reid (London: Bloomsbury/T&T Clark, 2016). In this study I give ample bibliographical references to others who have taken up aspects of the subject. See also the comparison of new and old lectionaries and their approaches to the Word of God in my book Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church (Kettering, OH: Angelico Press, 2014), ch. 2, “The Word of God and the Wordiness of Man,” pp. 33–46, and ch. 9, “The Loss of Riches in the Sanctoral Cycle,” pp. 124–38.

[3] See, for example, Appendix II of this volume, which indicates how the daily readings for Lent were totally changed around.

[4] The rationale behind many such omissions is stated quite openly in the General Introduction to the Lectionary (GIL), 76: “In readings for Sundays and solemnities [and, apparently, weekdays], texts that present real difficulties are avoided for pastoral reasons. The difficulties may be objective, in that the texts themselves raise complex literary, critical, or exegetical problems; or, at least to a certain extent, the difficulties may lie in the faithful’s ability to understand the texts. But there could be no justification for depriving the faithful of the spiritual riches of certain texts on the grounds of difficulty if its source is the inadequacy either of the religious education that every Christian should have or of the biblical formation that every pastor should have. Often a difficult reading is clarified by its correlation with another in the same Mass.” A detailed study of the manner in which this paragraph was applied, misapplied, and half-applied is long overdue.

[5] The Index Lectionum will greatly facilitate the study of the question: “How exactly does the Mass utilize the Scriptures?” For, in neither the classical nor the modern rite is the text of Scripture always taken simply as it stands. Apart from obvious additions such as “Fratres” and “In illo tempore,” we see an ecclesiastical editing hand at work, sometimes subtly (as when the usus antiquior reads Job 29:11–16a and 18–20 for the feast of St. John Baptist de Rossi, omitting v. 17 because it does not readily suit the portrait of the honored saint) and sometimes clumsily (as when the new lectionary clips out references to divine chastisement). Another aspect of this question is the notorious invention of “long” and “short” forms of readings, where the short form almost always omits controversial matter, such as the subordination of wives to husbands or the threatened punishments of hell.

[6] Prominent indeed: verses from Wisdom 5 are read for the feasts of St. Hermengild, St. John before the Latin Gate, SS. Philip and James (in Easter), SS. Nereus, Achilleus, Domitilla, and Pancras (in Easter), SS. Primus and Felician, SS. Cosmas and Damian, and for the Common of Martyrs both in and outside Paschaltide, while verses from Wisdom 10 are read for St. John of Capistrano, St. Louis, St. Joseph Calasanctius, St. John Damascene, SS. Nazarius, Celsus, Victor I, and Innocent I, SS. Felix and Adauctus, and several more of the Commons for Martyrs. In practice, therefore, the old liturgy reads from Wisdom 5 and 10 many times each year—but neither chapter has any place whatsoever in the new lectionary. So much for the principle of Sacrosanctum Concilium §23.

[7] See Anthony Cekada, Work of Human Hands: A Theological Critique of the Mass of Paul VI, ch. 10 (West Chester, OH: Philothea Press, 2010), esp. pp. 265–74. In making use of Fr. Cekada’s research, I do not mean to suggest that I endorse all of his conclusions.

[8] For a thorough discussion of what these different aims are, that is, how the theology of biblical readings in the traditional liturgy compares with the theology undergirding the new lectionary, see my above-mentioned paper “The Reform of the Lectionary,” as well as my article “In Defense of Preserving Readings in Latin,” The Latin Mass 22.2 (Summer 2013) pp. 10–13, available at

[9] This passage, read every year on Ember Saturday of Lent in the usus antiquior, was carefully edited out by the reformers when they selected Deuteronomy 11:18, 26–28, and 32 for the 9th Sunday per annum (A). In general, the reformers show a tendency to edit out verses that express divine wrath against sin or sinners, or the position of Israel or an Israelite as executor of divine justice. Naturally, the same timidity can be seen at work in the unprecedented exclusion of verses of psalms and entire psalms from the revised four-week Liturgy of the Hours.

[10] A reading deemed important enough to be included in the usus antiquior Easter Vigil (!), but simply omitted from the new lectionary.

[11] The work of the Consilium, the group primarily responsible for the post-Vatican II reform of the Roman liturgy, is recorded in nearly 450 documents, proposals, and drafts called schemata. These mostly unpublished documents are valuable witnesses to the development of the reform and the mind of the reformers. For instance, in Schema 176 (De Missali 25, 25 Jul 1966), part of which outlines a proposed new order of readings for proper seasons and Sundays per annum, there is this enlightening entry alongside Monday of week 4 of Lent: “Jr [Jeremiah] 7.1-7: Contra cultum Templi. | MR feria V hebdomadae III. Textus hodiernus, 3 Rg 3.16-28, De iudicio Salomonis, non pertinet ad catechesim quadragesimalem” (p. 43, my emphasis). Snippets like this make it clear that the Consilium changed the Lenten readings in order to fit in with their own notions of what Lent is for. As it happens, 1 Kgs. 3:16-28 ended up branded with the judgment “non pertinet” for every other time of the year as well.

[12] We find a curious mosaic of verses from Judith 13 in three Marian Masses each year in the usus antiquior: the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 15), the Commemoration of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Friday after Passion Sunday), and the Assumption.

[13] In the old rite, Proverbs 31:10–31 in its entirety is read everywhere on July 10, July 26, and any time the Common of Holy Women is used, which will be several more times. In the new lectionary, the text is reduced to vv. 10–13, 19–20, and 30–31, so that its overall substance and impact are considerably lessened (8 verses compared with the 22 verses of the original). Even in this attenuated form, moreover, it is required to be read only once every three years, on the 33rd Sunday per annum (A). Its use is optional in a number of other contexts. Our list of examples does not include any of the numerous passages from the Song of Songs, Wisdom, and Sirach that used to be read but were then excluded from the new lectionary. That the Song of Songs is used much more frequently in the Mass and Divine Office of the classical Roman liturgy than it is in the modern liturgy has to do, of course, with the medieval penchant for allegorical interpretation and the modern historical-critical disdain for the spiritual senses, but this is an area that deserves closer study than it has yet received.

[14] Appropriately read, in the usus antiquior, on Friday of Passion Week.

[15] Snippets of this chapter are read in the OF, but with the verses about the man, lion, ox, and eagle omitted. The usus antiquior, in contrast, appoints Ezk. 1:10–14 for the feasts of both St. Mark and St. Matthew.

[16] This passage is read four times each year in the usus antiquior, namely, as the fifth lesson of Ember Saturdays for Advent, Lent, Pentecost, and September.

[17] Here we see an instance where the abolition of the separate feast of St. Gabriel dictated the abolition of a reading specific to that archangel. Given that only three archangels are mentioned by name in Scripture, the move to reduce their liturgical commemoration is puzzling—unless we are dealing with a rationalistic attitude that seeks to diminish angelic, miraculous, or praeternatural elements.

[18] Verses 14–31 are read in the usus antiquior on Tuesday of Week 4 of Lent.

[19] See Romano Guardini, The Spirit of the Liturgy, trans. Ada Lane (New York: Crossroad, n.d.), ch. 1.

[20] Fr. Yves Congar says in his memoirs: “For a quarter of an hour he [the Pope] gave a very devout eulogy of the Virgin Mary. Though his text contained little substance, he spoke at length, then he turned to using words like ‘declaramus’ and announced the title Mater Ecclesiae. The seven protonotaries, sitting just near me, stood up; so also the two cardinals assisting the Pope, the other cardinals, almost all the bishops. The enthusiastic applause was very strongly supported by the mob of insignia-bearers and the various members of the papal court. They gave the impression of believing that the Pope had just made a dogmatic definition. But a definition OF WHAT? What is the CONTENT of ‘Mater Ecclesiae’???” (My Journal of the Council [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2012], p. 696).

[21] The Communion antiphon in the revised Graduale Romanum for the Missal of Paul VI is John 6:57 (Years A & B) or 1 Corinthians 11:24–25 (Year C); in the altar missal the antiphon is simply John 6:57.

[22] It is not irrelevant to mention that Catholics who attend the traditional Office of Tenebrae—a liturgy that has been making an unexpected comeback—will hear 1 Corinthians 11:27–34 as the ninth Lesson for Maundy Thursday.

[23] It may be worth pointing out here that, out of all the Commons in the OF, the Common of Holy Men & Women is the most voluminous. For the first reading, there are 18 Old Testament readings, along with 4 New Testament readings for use in Eastertide. For the second reading from the New Testament, there are 18 readings, and for the Gospel there are 26 readings. Functionally, since the rubrics make no real distinction between the first and second readings for memorials (cf. GIL 84c), that gives 40 possible first readings for a saint who falls into this category. And this Common can be used for any saint—cf. GIL 83—which only increases the range of choices.

[24] Rev. 14:4a can be misunderstood in a Manichaean sense. But the Bible belongs to the Church; and if the Church is capable of explaining its orthodox meaning, so, too, should her ministers be. The tactic of sweeping verses under the carpet in the hopes that no one will ask tough questions bespeaks a reductionistic understanding of biblical inspiration, inerrancy, and utility. Rev. 14:1–3, 4b–5 is read on Mon 34 per annum, but no longer for the Holy Innocents. The epistle for Holy Innocents was a casualty of the obsession with semi-continuous reading of Scripture: “From 29 December on, there is a continuous reading of the whole of 1 John, which actually begins earlier, on 27 December, feast of St. John the Evangelist, and on 28 December, feast of the Holy Innocents” (GIL 96). To his credit, Fr. Thadée Matura, O.F.M., had suggested Rev. 14:1–5 to Group XI of the Consilium as a suitable reading for the liturgy: cf. Schema 137 (De Missali 17, 22 Dec 1965), p. 37.

[25] On the loss of these verses (especially “Let not the sun go down on your anger”), an English friend of mine commented: “Incredible! My mother, an agnostic, nominal Anglican, drummed this into me as a child! And it turns out that Holy Mother Church no longer does, for those of her children who attend the OF? Moreover, these verses are actually quite didactic. So, of all the passages one would expect to find in a lectionary seemingly conceived of first and foremost as a didactic tool, why on earth are these verses missing?” This is exactly the sort of reaction people have when they begin investigating the violence done to the ancient lectionary.

[26] Fr. Beda Rigaux, O.F.M. does not seem to have spent a lot of time recommending passages from 1 and 2 Thessalonians to the Consilium for liturgical use. He only suggested two passages from 2 Thessalonians: 3:6-15 and (you guessed it) 2:1–8 (cf. Schema 137, p. 32). Rigaux’s suggestion of 3:6–15 was modified to 3:6–10, 16–18, which ended up on Wednesday of Week 21 per annum, Year II.

[27] Again, a sign that we are dealing with a deliberate policy is the awkwardness of the lacuna in the reading offered for the Thursday of Week 8 per annum, Year II, namely, 1 Peter 2:2–5, 9–12. Note also that verse 1, included in the usus antiquior, is excluded: “Wherefore laying away all malice, and all guile, and dissimulations, and envies, and all detractions…”

[28] It is read for SS. Nereus and companions on May 12, SS. Gervase & Protase on June 19, and is one of three Lesson options in the Commons of One Bishop Martyr and One non-Bishop Martyr outside Paschaltide.

[29] While this appears to be for text-critical reasons (the Nova Vulgata only reads Sic erunt novissimi primi, et primi novissimi, with multi sunt enim vocati, pauci autem electi in the notes), it is telling that modern biblical criticism is considered of greater weight than the consensus of the Fathers and the perennial witness of the liturgy, which together have recognizied in this verse a divine authority. Something similar can be said of the Johannine comma (cf. 1 Jn. 5:7-8), which is read in the usus antiquior but omitted from the new lectionary.

[30] Note also that Week 7 is omitted in its entirety from the OF calendar with some regularity due to the way tempus per annum works with Lent/Easter if there are only 33 weeks worth of per annum time. It was/will be omitted, e.g., in 2010, 2015, 2021, 2026 and 2037.

[31] It looks as if we have Fr. Heinz Schürmann to thank for this abbreviation of Mt. 18. In Schema 137, p. 5, he suggested Mt. 18:1–7+10 to the Consilium as a suitable reading for use in the liturgy. We are perhaps lucky that this part of Matthew 18 features at all in the liturgy, since as late as November 1968, Group XI were suggesting that Jn. 1:47–51 be used on the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels (Oct 2): cf. Schema 327 (De Missali 59, 16 Nov 1968), p. 60.

[32] Indeed, the use Hebrews also gets in the Commons of the two Missals is striking. For the EF, 5:1–4 = Confessor Bishops (option 2); 7:23–27 = Confessor Bishops (Sacerdotes tui); 10:32–38 = Martyrs (Several outside Easter, Salus autem); 11:33–39 = Martyrs (option 6 for Several outside Easter); 13:7–17a = Confessor Bishops (option 3). In the OF, there is only one use: 12:18–19, 22–24 = Dedication of a Church (NT option 3). This is reflected in the respective Propers of Saints: the EF offers readings from Hebrews on 15 saints’ days, whereas the OF does so on only 4 days (2 of which are optional). In the interests of fairness, Hebrews does get some attention on Sundays 27–33 in Year B. Still, for the OF Common of Pastors in particular to have no readings from Hebrews seems incongruous at best.

[33] The passage had been suggested to the Consilium for use in the liturgy by Fr. Franz Mussner (Schema 137, p. 28), and 3:15–22 does occur in the Consilium’s draft ferial lectionary on Monday of Week 11 per annum (Year II): cf. Schema 187 (De Missali 28, 27 Sep 1966), p. 22. This passage may have been eliminated as a result of the feedback of the 800 or so experts to whom, as Annibale Bugnini tells us in his memoirs of the liturgical reform, this draft lectionary was sent in the summer of 1967 (see The Reform of the Liturgy 1948–1975 [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990], pp. 419–20).

[34] Always on October 18 and Thursday of Week 26 per annum (on the latter day the pericope is slightly expanded to Luke 10:1–12); every third year on the 14th Sunday  per annum (C). Lk. 10:1–9 has rough parallels with Mt. 9:37–38 and 10:7–16 (which do get a fair bit of use, including on the 11th Sunday per annum in Year A [9:36–10:8] and in Week 14 per annum) and Mk. 6:7–12 (cf. 15th Sunday per annum [B] and Thursday of Week 4 per annum, which goes to v. 13). The better parallel for these Matthaean and Marcan passages is, however, Lk. 9:1–6.

[35] February 6, April 25, April 28, May 28, July 7, July 19, July 31, August 2, October 9, October 18, and in some places, November 26.

[36] Fr. Pierre Benoit, O.P. and Fr. Xavier Leon-Dufour, S.J. were the two experts responsible for suggesting passages from Philippians to the Consilium, and they fail to suggest 4:2–3 (cf. Schema 137, p. 30).One can only suppose they thought it merely an incidental piece of historical information not suited for the streamlined ‘modern man,’ and yet it is one of several passages in the NT that highlight the crucial role of women in the spread of the Gospel, making its absence in the modern liturgy and its presence in the classical liturgy—often criticized as patriarchalist—somewhat ironic.

[37] Its inclusion had been suggested in Schema 137 (cf. p. 27) by Fr. Rudolf Schnackenburg, but obviously the Consilium did not take up this proposal.

[38] In Schema 137, Dom Jacques Dupont, O.S.B., did suggest Acts 1:15–26 as a suitable pericope for liturgical use (p. 21). However, in the draft lectionary of Schema 176, Acts 1:15–17, 21–26 is suggested on p. 48 as the first reading for the Seventh Sunday of Easter (B) (almost the same as what we have now, 1:15–17, 20a, 20c–26). The following note on p. 51 of the schema is interesting: “3. Dominica VII (B): sermo Petri quadamtenus longior est. Etiam hic vv. 18-20 possent litteris minoribus imprimi eorumque lectio ad libitum proponi”. The proposed long/short form here was never to materialize. On the traditional consensus that Judas was damned and the post-conciliar tendency to “rehabilitate” him, see my article “Damned Lies: On the Destiny of Judas Iscariot,”

[39] Such issues are extensively discussed in my essay “The Reform of the Lectionary” (see note 2).

[40] On the revival of the usus antiquior or so-called Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, see my book Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis as well as Alcuin Reid, “The Usus Antiquior—Its History and Importance after the Second Vatican Council,” in T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), pp. 455–82. One may also consult with profit William H. Johnston, Care for the Church and Its Liturgy: A Study of Summorum Pontificum and the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2013).

[41] Some examples include Msgr. Patrick Boylan’s The Sunday Epistles and Gospels (reprinted by Roman Catholic Books); Canticum Clericorum Romanum: The Epistles, Gospels, and Orations of the 1962 Missale Romanum in Musical Notation (Chicago: Biretta Books, 2011); Epistles and Gospels for Pulpit Use (Chicago: Biretta Books, 2014); Leonard Goffine, Explanation of the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays, 2 vols., trans. Gerard Pilz (Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2010). Aeterna Press has republished a set of medieval homilies on the readings of the Chuch year, which, while not actually Aquinas’s, can still be useful to clergy celebrating the usus antiquior: Ninety-Nine Homilies of Saint Thomas Aquinas: Upon the Epistles and Gospels for Forty-Nine Sundays of the Christian Year, trans. John Ashley (n.p.: Aeterna Press, 2015).


[43], accessed March 30, 2016.

[44] Pierre Rousselot, S.J., The Intellectualism of St. Thomas Aquinas (London: Sheed & Ward, 1935), p. 221.

[45] Guardini, The Spirit of the Liturgy, pp. 22–23, emphasis mine.

[46] Cekada, Work of Human Hands, pp. 272–73.

[47] Adrien Nocent, O.S.B., “La Parole de Dieu et Vatican II,” in Liturgia opera divina e umana: Studi sulla riforma liturgica offerti a S. E. Mons. Annibale Bugnini in occasione del suo 70e compleanno, ed. Pierre Jounel et al. (Rome: Edizioni liturgiche, 1982), p. 136, cited in Cekada, Work of Human Hands, p. 273.

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