Doctrinal Instrument of Salvation: The Use of Scripture in the Prayer Book Lectionary

David Curry



The study of the lectionary marks only the beginning of a consideration of the Church’s use of scripture. Lectionaries are ordered programmes for the regular reading of Holy Scripture in the life of the Church. Such use of scripture suggests as much about the view of scripture as about the character of the Church. For not all Christian churches have a fully developed system for the reading of scripture, and among those churches which do have lectionaries of one sort or another, both the scope of the lectionaries and the principles upon which they are based may vary. And thereupon the vision and form of spiritual life varies. That a church has a lectionary and what its scope and principles are together contribute to the distinguishing characteristics of such a church and express something of its doctrinal standpoint. For as Stephen Sykes has pointed out, “the whole ethos of the church has a doctrinal basis and doctrinal implications” such that “the very fact that the scripture has been read expresses a doctrine.”1 That the scriptures should be read publicly, regularly, and orderly — publicly, as an act of worship, in principle, of the whole church; regularly, as on a daily and continuing basis; and orderly, as according to an appointed schedule of readings — are all expressions of the church’s teaching or doctrine about scripture and about the church’s own life. Equally so, the principles upon which the reading of scripture is ordered are necessarily matters of doctrine.

For the Anglican Church the ordered reading of scripture has formed the crucial and fundamental basis for our tradition of common prayer. The whole of common prayer may be seen to emerge from the desire to provide people with a simple, straightforward, and plain order for the reading of Holy Scripture, as Cranmer’s 1549 Preface makes clear.2 In the matter of English lectionaries, as in all other matters of Anglican liturgy, it would be wrong to focus unduly or exclusively on Cranmer, either for censure or praise, as if he were some sort of crackpot, albeit Ingenious, liturgical eccentric. In these matters the English Prayer Book tradition must be seen within the whole of the wider western liturgical tradition, and as making a signal contribution to that tradition through the development of common prayer. With respect to common prayer, of course, Cranmer’s work was altogether fundamental to its development.

Certainly in the matter of the lectionary, however, one must look both backwards and forwards from Cranmer. The Cranmerian lectionaries of 1549 and 1552 belong to an organic development in the understanding and use of scripture that has both antecedents and consequences. Cranmer was by no means unique in the sixteenth century in perceiving the limitations of the complicated pattern of readings in the Late Medieval Church; nor was he alone in wanting to provide for a simpler and plainer order for scripture reading. The obvious example is the Breviary of the Spanish Cardinal Francisco de Quinones (d. 1540) commissioned by Pope Clement VII and published under Pope Paul III in 1535, which influenced Cranmer considerably, as may be seen both in his three drafts of the lectionary and in the actual wording of the 1549 Preface, which is similar to that of Quinones.3 The crucial difference between the two is just the difference between a breviary, intended primarily and explicitly for the use of clergy and religious according to their rules, and a book of common prayer, intended for the use of all, clergy and laity alike.

The principal importance of Cranmer’s use of scripture lies in establishing the ordered reading of scripture as the basis of common prayer.4 The subsequent developments in the lectionary, until very recently, may be seen as contributing to, improving and, in some sense,


completing that project. They are developments which lie within a coherent tradition of the systematic and doctrinal use of scripture as the basis of common prayer. Within that tradition the fundamental principle governing the lectionaries is the understanding of scripture as a doctrinal instrument of salvation. For salvation, or the end and perfection of man, is revealed by God; scripture is God’s revealed Word. This principle is most clearly stated by Richard Hooker:

The end of the Word of God is to save, and therefore we term it the word of life. The way for all men to be saved is by the knowledge of that truth which the word hath taught . . . . To this end the word of God no otherwise serveth than only in the nature of a doctrinal instrument. It saveth because it maketh “wise to salvation. “5

Such a view understands a necessary and intimate relation between scripture and doctrine. Such an understanding governs the reading of scripture in the Prayer Book tradition.

The understanding of scripture as a doctrinal instrument of salvation provides the logic of the Prayer Book lectionaries. In the re-awakened interest and, indeed, discovery of the Prayer Book, much thought must be given to the ordered reading of scripture as contained in the lectionary. This is necessary for three reasons: first, the intrinsic merits of the lectionary itself which, 1 think, we in our generation are only just now beginning to understand and appreciate; second, the fundamental relation of the lectionary to the tradition of common prayer and especially to the doctrines of justification and sanctification embodied within that tradition; third, alternate liturgy or liturgies containing alternative lectionaries are now urged upon us. These cannot be appreciated without a proper understanding of the programme of the ordered reading of scripture in the Prayer Book.

In June 1983 the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada set in motion a process for the adoption for use of a book of alternative services to be used alongside and not in place of the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book, or so we are assured. While the book has only recently appeared in its fullness in the public domain, some parts of it have been in existence and approved for use for some time. The new lectionary belongs to this latter category. Since 1980 there has been in authorized use an alternative lectionary to that of the Prayer Book.6 This proposed lectionary, as amended in 1983 by the Committee for the Consultation on Common Texts, has become the official alternative lectionary of the Book of Alternative Services. But the principles of the new lectionary and its relation to the tradition of common prayer remain to be considered. The importance of the lectionary in the church’s life requires that any proposed changes be carefully considered. Furthermore, both the reasons advanced for the adoption of the new lectionary and the principles upon which it is based equally demand a reconsideration of the lectionary in the Prayer Book tradition.

This paper seeks to promote at least the beginnings of such a consideration. It consists of three parts: first, a brief examination of the arguments advanced in favour of adopting a new lectionary; second, a brief analysis of the essential principles underlying the new lectionary; and third, a study of the Prayer Book lectionary against which the new changes are advanced. The first part focuses chiefly on two documents: the proposed lectionary authorized for use in 1980, and that lectionary as amended which appeared in the ‘binder-book’ draft of the 1983 General Synod7 and which is contained within the Book of Alternative Services. Both works provide introductions explaining the reason for the new proposed lectionary; these must be examined.

The second part treats briefly the Ordo Lectionum Missae (OLM), 1969, Vatican,8 which is the declared source of the lectionaries proposed for use in the Anglican Church of Canada and elsewhere. OLM argues in part the ascendency of modern biblical criticism as providing the logic for changing the lectionary.

The third and principal part of the paper concentrates on the use of scripture as a doctrinal instrument of salvation within the lectionaries of the Prayer Book, centering somewhat


on the lectionary of the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book, but with reference to the general history of Prayer Book development and to the various Anglican writers who draw out and explain the general logic informing the church’s use of scripture.

A note of explanation and clarification must be added. The term ‘lectionary’ can have both a comprehensive use and a specific use. For instance, the lectionary of the Prayer Book comes to comprehend several specific lectionaries: the daily office lectionary, the Sunday office lectionary, and the eucharistic lectionary (including the propers for saints’ days, etc.). The lectionary also, properly speaking, comprehends the ordered use of the Psalter within the daily offices, the Sunday offices, and the eucharist. The importance of the Psalter within the devotional life of the Church and, in particular, within the tradition of common prayer, cannot be gainsaid. It is one of the many weaknesses of this paper that it does not very much attend to the use of the Psalter within the lectionary system.

Part I

The Canadian Church lectionary revisers have provided us with two introductions to the proposed lectionary, both remarkable for the tenor of their argument. These introductions advance two reasons why the new lectionary should be adopted: ecumenism, and the limitations of the Prayer Book eucharistic lectionary.

In the 1980 Introduction, the ecumenical argument is that we should do what everybody else is doing in lectionary revision. This means to follow Rome and pick up the Ordo Lectionum Missae (OLM),9 as a number of churches have done for their lectionary revisions. But, as we are now so often told, this is not the end of the process of lectionary revisions.10 For eleven churches are working toward a consensus on lectionary readings11 and eventual revision of OLM and all OLM-based lectionaries in order to produce a common lectionary. Furthermore, it is stated that this is what we have done and that we are committed to bring our newOLM-based lectionary into conformity with the new, new lectionary, whenever it appears.12 Evidently, these OLM-based lectionaries are not identical except in their common shape and approach to the public reading of the Bible.

The Introduction to the BAS lectionary argues the virtues of ecumenical endeavour. It states that lectionary revision through ecumenical agreement on common patterns fosters Christian unity and adds to the richness of Christian experience.13 However, while the post-Second Vatican Council lectionary has formed the basis of ecumenical co-operation, there are a number of lectionaries which are similar, but not identical.14 Thus, what began as agreement on common patterns seems to have become agreement on identical practice, which agreement will eventually be reached only by continued commitment to ongoing use and revision.15 This admits that the ‘common lectionary’ is, at present, not common in this strict sense of identical practice.

These introductions focus primarily on the Sunday eucharistic lectionary. Nonetheless, some provisions are made for the practice of daily prayer, though in ways that depart from the common prayer tradition. The 1980 Lectionary made no provision for the daily offices but offered a two-year cycle of weekday readings for daily eucharistic celebrations.16 For Sundays, it allowed that if the principal service was not the eucharist but mattins, then two of the three readings appointed for the eucharist could be used, namely, the Old Testament lesson and the gospel, omitting the epistle.17 It appointed no Sunday office lectionary, but provided for the use of one of the other years of the three-year Sunday cycle when the same congregation is present.18 No instructions are provided to indicate which one of the other years’ readings could be used for which office. Presumably, it would be left to the discretion of the priest to decide which set of readings.19 In one church the lections for year C might be read at mattins, and year B at evensong; in another, year B lections might be read at mattins, year C at evensong. Such variableness makes it difficult to see how this could be common prayer and equally, how it could be ecumenical.


The BAS surmounts some of these difficulties by providing for a daily office lectionary20, which at least approximates the Prayer Book tradition of the two daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer. It appoints three readings in a two-year cycle.21 Unlike the common prayer practice of two lessons for both offices, the BAS lectionary suggests the reading of two of the three lessons in the morning, and the remaining one in the evening.22 Should one persist in the older practice, provision is made to use the Old Testament lesson from the readings for the next year.23

The failure to appoint an Old Testament lesson for evensong means more than mere short-changing on evensong. It also considerably weakens the connection between the two daily offices. In the 1962 Prayer Book, for instance, the Old Testament lessons follow in course through both offices.24 In this way the Reformed intent behind the construction of the two daily offices, namely, to read through the greater part of the Old Testament in the course of a year, may be realized. On the other hand, the shortened pericopes for the offices and the lack of a complete set of evensong propers in the new lectionary mean that the greater part of the Bible cannot be read through in the course of a year.25

In general, the proposed revisions to the offices forsake two important features of the common prayer tradition: first, the reading through the greater part of the Old Testament at least once, and the New Testament more than once, in the course of a year, and second, the reading of two lessons at both of the two daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer by which this project, central to the overall Prayer Book pattern of sanctification, could be realized. The claim of the new lectionaries to present a greater amount of scripture to be read on a regular basis than has ever been in our tradition pertains entirely to the eucharistic lectionary with its twofold provision of three readings, through the addition of an Old Testament lesson, and a three-year cycle of readings. But even this merely quantitative assertion must be seriously questioned.27

The 1980 Introduction makes the additional remarkable claim that the three-year Sunday lectionary “allows the presentation of all major scriptural themes”; something that had not been possible before with either the Sunday eucharistic or office lectionaries.”28 How can such a claim be upheld? The Prayer Book office lectionary reads through the Bible at least once in the course of a Year.29 The Sunday office lectionary appoints a set of two readings for both Morning and Evening Prayer according to a two-year cycle;30 the eucharistic lectionary presents the ordered sequence of saving doctrine and the moral and practical application of the same.31 We must ask what major scriptural themes are excluded from this Prayer Book programme. Major scriptural themes — all major scriptural themes – would surely concern all that pertains to salvation.32 Thus, such a claim suggests that the Prayer Book lectionary actually fails to present all that is necessary to salvation. Such a claim is clearly unwarranted.

The BAS Introduction suggests as well that the daily office lectionary can be used at weekday celebrations of the eucharist for which no readings are provided in the lectionary.33 But what does this mean for those who say their offices and attend one or more weekday celebrations? Moreover, the BAS lectionary provides another set of weekday readings which in the 1980 Lectionary were intended for use at weekday celebrations of the Holy Eucharist.34 They are now allowed for use either at the offices or the eucharist. Consequently, there may be in use two different daily office lectionaries, both of which may be also used at daily celebrations of the eucharist. But beyond even these provisions the BAS Introduction announces a third: “a shortlist of psalms and readings for use as required, e.g., at offices on days when the daily office lectionary has been used at the eucharist, in time of haste, etc.”35

Thus, with the adoption for use of the Book of Alternative Services, the practice of daily common prayer has been seriously undermined. Only the Prayer Book remains to provide a schedule of intended common readings for the daily offices: the BAS options mean the forsaking of this significant dimension of common prayer. No doubt these revisions are impelled by pastoral concern, but it is pastoral concern for the expedient at the expense and through the forgetting of pastoral concern for sanctification.


No doubt, as is urged, these resources require creative imagination for use that will avoid confusion and needless repetition.36 They put considerable onus on the priest while allowing for considerable divergence in practice from parish to parish, from diocese to diocese, and between sister churches within the Anglican communion. It is again difficult to see how this can further ecumenical relations even in the sense of identical practice which the revisers so strongly urge. It certainly means the loss of common prayer.37

The 1980 Introduction sets forth the supposed limitations of the Prayer Book eucharistic lectionary. It acknowledges that, prior to the Second Vatican Council, there was a largely common eucharistic lectionary among Anglicans, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics.38 It argues, however, that it wasn’t quite common enough and that it wasn’t common by intent, only by accident.39 Their common source was the lectionaries of the middle ages which entered the sixteenth century liturgical books with little revision.40 We are told that both parish priests and biblical scholars have criticized these texts.41

It claims that “the two readings at the Sunday eucharist are usually quite independent of one another (despite the valiant efforts of many preachers to discover a common theme).”42 So much for the Anglican divines of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. So much for the homiletical and commentary tradition within Anglicanism. So much for the homiletical and devotional tradition of the Fathers, the Medievals, the Reformers, and the Counter-Reformers.43 Valiant but misguided, they have been dismissed with parenthetical ease. If that were not enough, moreover, it goes on to say that “in their present form the readings in the lectionary stand as landmarks of the erosion of the place of Scripture in the worship of the Church and of the triumph of the city of Rome in the development of Western liturgy.”44 We can, perhaps, admire the polemical vigour and lively use of metaphor in these astounding assertions. But beyond mere contentiousness, they are without foundation.

More parenthetical discrediting follows: first, the readings are all much shorter than the original and there are two rather than three for which Rome is the cause; and second, “the selection of a number of readings is based on word plays on the dedication or topographical surroundings of the Roman stational church in which the readings were first appointed for use.”45 These claims seriously distort the empirical observations and speculations of historical and liturgical scholarship. (See Appendix).

The BAS Introduction is somewhat more restrained in tone but argues mainly the same points. It suggests that there was a system of continuous reading at the eucharist which was supplanted “by a more arbitrary approach to selection, based not only on the themes of the day or season, but even on the themes of nearby festivals of local import.”46 It speculates that the readings in the Trinity season are unrelated because of their dislocation from their original order.47 It goes on to say, “it is difficult not to conclude that this scheme of readings, with its scanty use of the Old Testament and unrepresentative approach to the New Testament, provided a limited base for education in the Bible.”48 Thus, this Introduction presents a tamer, less inflammatory version of the 1980 Introduction, but at base remains tendentious and irresponsible. (See Appendix).

The BAS Introduction goes on to praise Cranmer’s work on the offices: “Since the offices became the most frequently attended services on Sundays for a long period in Anglican history, the shortcomings of the eucharistic readings were mitigated.”49 This is to damn Cranmer with faint praise. It assumes, without demonstration, the shortcomings of the eucharistic lectionary; it ignores the relation between the offices and the eucharist; it overlooks the coherence of the whole programme of the use of scripture in the common prayer tradition; it asserts the primacy of one form of eucharistic piety (Anglo-Catholic) while disparaging another (Evangelical).50

What is going on here? The arguments assume three things, 1 think: first, one service (the eucharist in place of mattins, eucharist, and evensong); second, three readings from scripture; and third, the self-evident truth of the superiority of continuous reading. In ignorance of the elements of common prayer, they assume what they advocate: one service,


the Holy Eucharist,51 with three scripture readings — one from the Old Testament, two from the New Testament — and a course of semi-continuous readings, at least for certain parts of the year.”

What about the ecumenical argument? If adopting the new lectionary means the loss or destruction of our common prayer tradition, which is our defining character and principal contribution to the Church Universal, then how exactly is it ecumenical?

In my view, both arguments assume the loss of common prayer. They show ignorance of the place of the lectionary in the common prayer tradition. They show ignorance of its logic and coherence. They show contempt for its antiquity. They deliberately overlook its development.” In short, they attempt to persuade us to adopt the new by discrediting the old.

Part II

The Ordo Lectionum Missae (OLM), 1969, is the basis of the new proposed lectionary. For Roman Catholics, it represents the endeavour to establish a more abundant, more various and more fitting reading of Holy Scripture at the Mass than what has been available to them in their tradition.54 It provides three lessons for Sundays and feast days; an Old Testament reading, an epistle (or lesson from Revelation), and a gospel.55 It is based on a three-year cycle:56 years A, B and C, which are also characterized by the synoptic gospel principally read in that year. The principles which regulate the order of reading are thematic harmony and semicontinuous reading.57 One or the other principle is followed according to the time of the year.58 The principle of harmonisatio ex themate is generally used for Advent, Lent, and Easter; lectio semi-continua during ‘ordinary time’ which largely consists of what Anglicans used to know as Ephiphanytide and Trinity season.59 OLM claims, in particular, that the Old Testament lessons are chosen primarily on account of their correspondence with the New Testament readings, especially with the gospel, which are read at Mass.60

In these principles of the thematic and the semi-continuous reading of scripture, OLM attempts to contract into one service what the common prayer tradition accomplishes through the offices and the eucharist. The focus of OLM is entirely upon the eucharist, which accords with the devotional practice of the Roman Catholic Church. In order to present a greater and more various selection of scripture at that one service, a three-year cycle of readings has been required; even so, the whole corpus of scripture cannot be read through entirely in the three years. At best OLM attempts what our Prayer Book two-year Sunday office lectionary accomplisshes by offering a representative and comprehensively complete, so far as possible, selection of readings from the Old and New Testaments. Even with its three-year cycle and its three lessons, OLM cannot provide what Cranmer, the English reformers, and the subsequent Prayer Book tradition regarded as crucial to its devotional life, namely, the reading of the whole Bible on a yearly basis through the complementary practice of continuous reading at the offices and doctrinally thematic reading of the eucharist.

OLM contracts these two lectionary principles into one by dividing the church year between specific seasons and ordinary time.61 This results in changes to the character of the church year. In general, it results in a loss of the overall coherence and logic of the ecclesiastical year as that came to be more fully developed in the western tradition and, most especially, in the reformed tradition of the English church. The eucharistic lectionary as it appears in the Prayer Book offers a doctrinally comprehensive and thematically rich programme of readings for the course of the entire year. OLM‘s application of ex themate tends to reduce this seasonal richness to a single theme, but it is the application of semi-continua which especially results in the destruction of the doctrinal logic and systematic completeness of the church year. This is most apparent in the changes to the season of Epiphany, the three Sundays of pre-Lent, and the season of Trinity which had especially been sharpened and clarified in the Prayer Book development.62


The readings for roughly half of the church year are ordered upon the principle semi-continua.63 Motivated by the desire to present a more abundant and more various selection of readings, OLM substitutes what one might call a quantitative logic for the more substantial or doctrinal logic upon which to order the reading of scripture. OLM‘s endeavour is to present a greater amount, rather than the whole of scripture; nonetheless, the force of the semi In the principle lectio semi-continua must be grasped. This principle often applies to all three readings in ordinary time; for, despite OLM‘s claim that the reading from the Old Testament is placed in harmony with the gospel, in practice, the Old Testament reading often follows a qualified semi-continuous course, at least in the BAS OLM-based lectionary.

The Old Testament readings are necessarily selected excerpts from books of the Old Testament. In year A, for instance, Genesis is read semi-continuously from the ninth Sunday in ordinary time through to the thirteenth Sunday in ordinary time; the passages, which are rarely whole chapters, are excerpted in order from chapters 12, 22, 25, 28, and 32.65

The liberal use of semi-continuous reading from the New Testament is even more problematic, and takes two forms. One form is the rather extended practice of simply excluding certain verses within chapters.66 The other is the lack of a complete reading of any gospel.67 Though there are a possible thirty-four Sundays in ordinary time, not one of the gospels is read continuously or semi-continuously through to Its conclusion. Perhaps nowhere is this more striking than with the shortest and most succinct of all the gospels, St. Mark’s gospel, which is read semi-continuously, but not through to its conclusion. The course of reading does not progress beyond verse 44 of chapter 12.

In year B of the three-year cycle, John’s gospel is used in the OLM-based lectionaries as a companion piece to Mark’s gospel. The project of semi-continuous reading is thus interrupted from the seventeenth to the twenty-second Sunday in ordinary time by a series of readings from the sixth chapter of John’s gospel — the bread of life discourse — which would seem to suggest the entrance of a eucharistical theme in the midst of the semi-continuous course of Mark.68

What occurs here, however, is an attempted collapsing into one of the thematic and the semi-continuous principles under the dominance of modern biblical criticism. First, evidently some biblical critics question the place of John 6 in the sequence of John’s gospel; thus, it is here removed from its gospel context and presented in utter isolation from its order.69 Second, under the sway of the synoptic problem, a parallel between John’s gospel and the synoptic gospels is here thought to obtain.70 In such a view John 6 picks up what is regarded as the original and primary pre-gospel narrative order, which both Mark 6-8 and Matthew 14-16 convey — the feeding of the multitude, the walking on the water, and Peter’s confession — and which Luke 9 also presents with the single omission of the walking on the water. Perhaps we have here the emergence of the gospel of Q in the lectionary! Those who have sought to account for the rationale of the common lectionary observe that “whatever may be the relation of John’s Gospel to the Synoptics, at least at this point we have a tradition that had already forged three stories into one narrative prior to the work of the Four Evangelists.”71

St. John’s gospel, reserved primarily for use in Lent and Eastertide, is also not read in its entirety over three years, even though it sometimes forms the gospel for each of the Sundays in the three-year cycle. Three whole chapters are omitted altogether — chapters 5, 7, and 8, though in year A, verses 37-39 of chapter 7 are provided as an optional gospel reading for the Feast of Pentecost. Chapter eight is probably excluded because of the dominance of the critical view that 7:53-8:11, the story of the woman caught in adultery, does not belong to John’s gospel, the pericope being absent from the most ancient manuscripts, though included in later texts. It nonetheless, of course, remains part of the canonical scriptures of the Church, and in its present place. In some instances, the sequence of verses in a given chapter are followed only on the same Sunday in all three years; for example, on Easter IV, John 10:1-10 is read in year A, John 10:11-18 in year B, and John 10:22-30 in year C.72


The changes to Holy Week are particularly significant. They constitute a considerable departure from the Prayer Book practice of reading the Passion from all four evangelists each year during Holy Week.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday. Gospel lections from the Synoptics, plus a Johannine option for year A, are provided for the Liturgy of the Palms: year A, Matthew 21:1-11; year B, Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16; and year C, Luke 19:28-40. The gospel readings for the Palm Sunday eucharist attempt over a three-year cycle what the Prayer Book provides yearly through the measured rhythm of Holy Week. The OLM-basedBAS appoints on Palm Sunday a different Passion narrative from the Synoptics for each year. In year A, Matthew 26:14-27:66 is appointed to be read; in year B, Mark 14:1-15:47 is appointed; and in year C, Luke 22:14-23:56. The provision of gospel lections for the Liturgy of the Palms, however, means the allowance and provision for much shorter readings at the Palm Sunday eucharist for each year. Thus Matthew 27:11-54, Mark 15:1-39, and Luke 23:1-49 are appointed as options.73

In all three years of the three-year cycle, readings from St. John’s gospel are appointed for the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week at the Holy Eucharist: in order, John 12:1-11, John 12:20-36, and John 13:21-30. On Maundy Thursday, different gospel readings are provided for each year. In year A, and whenever the ceremony of the pedilavium is performed, the gospel appointed is John 13:1-15; in year B, Mark 14:12-26; and in year C, Luke 22:7-20. The traditional rendering of John’s passion (John 18:1-19:42) remains for the gospel lection on Good Friday in all three years. A shorter reading, however, is provided as an option – John 18:17-30.74

The OLM-based readings for Holy Week contrast sharply with the provisions of the Prayer Book. While all lectionary systems focus upon the reading of the Passion of our Lord, no lectionary succeeds in the provision of such a thorough and so concentrated and complete a reading of all four gospel accounts of our Lord’s Passion as the Prayer Book. Such a provision, moreover, serves to highlight the intimate relation between the offices and the eucharist as understood in the Prayer Book programme of sanctification.

In the Prayer Book lectionary, Matthew 26 in its entirety is appointed for the second lesson at Morning Prayer on Palm Sunday, followed immediately in course by Matthew 27 which is read as the gospel at the Holy Eucharist. The eucharistic gospel for Holy Monday is Mark 14, followed by Mark 15 on Holy Tuesday. Luke 22 provides the gospel for Holy Wednesday day, and Luke 23 for Maundy Thursday. John 18:1-32 is appointed for the second lesson at Morning Prayer on Good Friday, John 18: 33-19 :37 at the communion, and John 19: 38-end provides the second lesson at Evening Prayer on Good Friday.75 The Passion Narratives are presented in their fullness and completeness. No accommodations are made for shorter readings. The Prayer Book, as Geoffrey Willis observes, “gives a clear and complete reading in sequence.”76

Since one of the admitted principles of the OLM-based lectionaries is lectio semi-continua, the omission of whole chapters, the exclusion of whole passages within chapters, and the truncated reconstruction of scriptural texts, is most unfortunate, especially in a three-year cycle of readings. No doubt, the brevity of the pericopes accounts in large part for these lacunae. The result is an unsatisfactory reading of the gospel even in this three-year cycle. OLM invokes pastoral reasons for shortened pericopes and for avoiding difficult biblical texts, partly, it is claimed, because they present the highest literary problems, critical or exegetical — presumably according to the criteria of modern biblical criticism — and partly because they are too difficult to be understood by the people.77

The application of lectio semi-continua means a necessary loss of unity to the lessons since the Old Testament lesson, the epistle, and the gospel are often each read semi-continuously. It can only be by accident and not by intent that they would bear any relation to each other. While one of the main features of the new eucharistic lectionary is the appointment of an Old Testament lesson, the restricted form of this semi-continuous reading results in an haphazard and unsatisfactory treatment of the Old Testament. The application of lectio


ex themate has equally not met with success owing to its overly simplistic use as a kind of proof text to the New Testament.

Anglicans have sometimes expressed discontent with the Sunday office lectionary in our Prayer Book, partly because of the enormous difficulties of providing regular Sunday worship in all points of a multi-point parish, and partly because of the expectations placed upon people to remember from Sunday to Sunday exactly where they are in a biblical narrative or argument. The new lectionary, at least in ordinary time, would appear to expect people to move more-or-less seriatim through epistles, gospels, and, rarely, books of the Old Testament, from Sunday to Sunday. But how practical an approach is this? Can one really expect people to get a sense of the movement and unity of a gospel or epistle or Old Testament narrative? How is that possible when the readings are spread out over many Sundays in ordinary time, including the lengthy irruption in the midst of ordinary time for the necessary observance of Lent and Eastertide, from which one is meant to take up whence one left off? Or is it really allowed that the gospels, for instance, do have an integrity and a unity to them? For, as has already been observed, OLM relies heavily upon modern biblical criticism, the essential premiss of which is the separation between scripture and doctrine.78 The new eucharistic liturgies would appear to re-enforce this premiss in the current fashion for placing the Creed after the sermon, rather than after the gospel.79

The inclusion of an Old Testament lesson and psalms in the eucharistic lectionary, however, does have its attractiveness. For Anglicans it would represent not so much a new thing as an additional and extended use of the Old Testament to that which is already present in the overall structure of the lectionary and in the structure of the public worship of the Church. Psalms, for instance, have been provided for use at the eucharist. In 1549 the introit psalm was conveniently printed with the collect, epistle and gospel of the day.80 Our 1962 Canadian Prayer Book appoints but does not print an introit and gradual psalm.81 The Decalogue and the Summary of the Law already provide some relation to the Old Testament at the eucharist. Nonetheless, an Old Testament lesson would make a welcome addition to the propers of the day. But surely this could be done without forsaking our well-ordered and comprehensive eucharistic lectionary; surely this could be done within the common prayer tradition of the doctrinal use of scripture.

An Old Testament lesson could be chosen in accord with the logic of the propers of the day and the season, as has already been done in the English Alternative Services: First Series (SPCK 1965). This drew upon a table of Old Testament lessons appended to the 1960 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon. It provides an Old Testament lesson for each Sunday and holy day and where, in 1662 onwards, the ‘epistle’ had been an Old Testament lesson, it provides a new epistle.82 This work could provide the basis for a similar project in Canada. It would mean not the loss of the doctrinal integrity of our lectionary, but its enhancement. The provision of an Old Testament lesson could well be made within rather than, as with the adoption of OLM, outside the common prayer tradition.

The application of lectio ex themate in the OLM lectionary presents additional problems about the choice of the themes and the selection of readings appropriate to the theme. The choice is not always doctrinally comprehensive; it is sometimes restrictive. The theme does not always apply consistently to all three readings. The connection between the readings can sometimes be no more than the simple recurrence of a single word.

The observations of those who have produced homiletical aids on the common lectionary are most instructive. While often commenting usefully and thoughtfully on the particular pericopes, the commentators inPreaching the New Common Lectionary (1984) are unable to ignore the deficiencies of the thematic connections between the periscopes.

The theme for the Lenten lections in year B is covenant.83 While the first Sunday provides a kind of thematic unity in all three readings — the Genesis story of the post-diluvian covenant with Noah, the reference in 1 Peter to the flood, and the Marcan account of Christ’s baptism84, — the theme appears in the remaining Sundays only in a very general and


inconsistent way.85 It principally occurs through the Old Testament lessons for the first, second, third, and fifth Sundays of Lent; it is submerged on the fourth.86

The second Sunday manages a connection between the Old Testament lesson, psalm reading, and epistle, but as the commentators observe, “it is not easy to recognize a traditional or thematic connection between these three readings and the Gospel lections.”87 On that Sunday two possible gospel lections are provided,, but neither of the options are clearly related to the other lections. The commentators make the most of the particular pericopes for the third Sunday of Lent, but do not attempt to argue their relation, being content to comment instead that “specific connections between the Decalogue in Exodus 20 and the New Testament readings for the third Sunday of Lent are difficult to discern.”88 The thematic relation between the Old Testament lesson and the New Testament lessons for the fourth Sunday of Lent also seems weak, possibly appearing more by way of contrast than by means of connection. Interestingly enough, it departs from the theme of covenant only to return to some semblance of the older lenten themes. The commentators are moved to understand these pericopes, especially the New Testament readings, in the light of the ancient character of this day, which was known as Laetare Sunday, even though the propers are not the same.89 The titles ‘Refreshment Sunday’ and ‘Mothering Sunday’ which popular piety in the English Church affixed to the fourth Sunday in Lent, on the basis of the propers, can no longer apply.

The attempted combination of harmonisatio ex themate and lectio semi-continua for the eucharistic readings has resulted in a weakening of the doctrinal strength and rhythm of the ordered pattern of salvation once presented through the course of the whole church year. The doctrinal comprehensiveness of the older eucharistic lectionary has been replaced with the looseness of the new. The common prayer tradition of the reading of scripture as a doctrinal instrument of salvation has been usurped by the hypotheses of modern biblical criticism about the structure, order and integrity of biblical books. In some sense, no doubt, the doctrinal elements may all be there, but in a much less coherent, much less systematic, and much less comprehensive way. The loss of the integrity of the seasons of Epiphany and the pre-Lenten Sundays SeptuagesimaSexagesima, andQuinquagesima is particularly regrettable. The changes to the Trinity season are equally unfortunate.

Whatever the advantages of the new lectionary for our Roman Catholic brethren, if indeed it means the opening out of the scriptures more largely to them, OLM does not emerge out of the common prayer tradition, and remains incompatible with it. It represents for Anglicans not only the loss of the coherence and doctrinal comprehensiveness of the Prayer Book eucharistic lectionary, but also the loss of the fundamental and intimate relation between the offices and the eucharist.

Furthermore, while it may be possible for Rome to make such changes without impairing her doctrinal character, because that is resident not primarily in the liturgy but in the papal magisterium,90 the Anglican church can hardly venture upon the OLM enterprise without forsaking her essential and defining character, which is common prayer and its concrete embodiment in the Liturgy which is, properly speaking, the entire Book of Common Prayer.91

Overall, OLM and OLM-based lectionaries do not arise out of a tradition of common prayer and are inimical to that tradition. They presume and provide for a pattern of spirituality that remains apart from the Prayer Book pattern of sanctification. Most significant, from the standpoint of the common prayer tradition, is the weakening of the doctrinal logic of the ecclesiastical year as that has come to be developed in the Anglican church. Central to that development and fundamental for the practice of common prayer is the use of scripture as a doctrinal instrument of salvation.

Part III

We come now to consider the Prayer Book lectionary. In one sense the reasons urged in the Canadian Church for adopting the new lectionary and the principles upon which it is founded compel us to such an enterprise.


Though for no other cause, yet for this; that posterity may know we have not loosely through silence permitted things to pass away as in a dream, there shall be for man’s information extant thus much concerning the present state of the Church of God established amongst us.92

So wrote Hooker in defense of the doctrine and polity of the Church of England against her detractors and promoters of radical projects in his day. And, certainly, today there has been a forgetting of the order of the Prayer Book lectionary, and a forgetting of the pattern of common prayer within which the lectionary is set; things have been permitted to pass away as in a dream. But in another sense, and perhaps a profounder one, we are compelled to this enterprise because in God’s providence there is a remembering, a discovering as new something which is old, a re-thinking of older things but in a fresher, more vigorous, and newer light. After the waters of Lethe, we drink of the stream of Eunoë.93

The reading of scripture not only forms the basis of common prayer but also belongs to its essential structure and purpose. The lectionary functions within the Prayer Book’s systematic and coherent programme of sanctification which is firmly built upon the principle of justification. Thus Hooker writes:

There is a glorifying righteousness of man in the world to come: and there is a justifying and a sanctifying righteousness here. The righteousness, wherewith we shall be clothed in the world to come, is both perfect and inherent. That whereby we are sanctified, inherent, but not perfect.94

Scripture is a doctrinal instrument of salvation because by it we learn that our justification is not in us, but in Christ, and that our sanctification is our being in Christ and His being in us. The reading of scripture increases in us the knowledge of divine things; it is an instrument “to work the knowledge of salvation in the hearts of men.”95 The lectionary falls within the programme of sanctification for the order of reading seeks to establish and to nourish within us that saving doctrine of Christ that “being made free from sin and made servants unto God, ye may have your fruit unto holiness and the end everlasting life” (Rom. 6:22).

The first homily in The First Book of Homilies (1562) urges the same teaching. Entitled “A Fruitful Exhortation to the Reading and Knowledge of Holy Scripture”, it provides a useful illustration of this understanding of the reading of scripture in the life of the Church.96The homily teaches that scripture contains all truth and doctrine necessary for our justification and salvation, and that the right and perfect way unto God is through the knowledge of Holy Scripture.97 This knowledge of God and of the end of man through the knowledge of Holy Scripture means that scripture “ought to be much in our hands, in our eyes, in our ears, in our mouths, but most of all in our hearts.”98 “For the Scripture of God is the heavenly meat of our souls; the hearing and keeping of it maketh us blessed, sanctifieth us, and maketh us holy; it turneth our souls; it is a light lantern unto our feet. It is a sure, steadfast and everlasting instrument of salvation”,99 ordained for the purpose of our everlasting life.100 The reading of scripture builds upon the sure and substantial foundation of Christ,101 God’s Word “which (by continual use of reading of holy Scripture, and diligent searching of the same) is deeply printed and engraven in the heart, at length turneth almost into nature.”102 For “in reading of God’s word, he most profiteth … that is most turned into it, that is most inspired with the Holy Ghost, most in his heart and life altered and changed into that thing which he readeth.”103

The lectionary is the means by which the purpose of scripture as a doctrinal instrument of salvation may be realized within the Prayer Book programme of sanctification. The lectionary orders the reading of scripture according to the pattern of doctrine. Such is the basis of the coherence of the lectionary even throughout its long history. That coherence and logic of the lectionary emerges in part through the consideration of its historical development.

The history of the English lectionary concerns the lectionary in its comprehensive sense, with principal regard for both the daily office lectionary and the developments in the Sunday office lectionary. The eucharistic lectionary is fundamental to the overall coherence of the lectionary and must be given special attention. For the common prayer tradition, the daily office


lectionary, the Sunday office lectionary, and the eucharistic lectionary form a comprehensive whole with each part dependent upon and informing the other. They are fundamentally connected, and it is in their relation that they form an integral part in the programme of sanctification. The doctrinal foundation of the lectionary appears most explicitly in the eucharistic lectionary which, in some sense, provides the logical centre around which the other two revolve.

The eucharistic lectionary itself is, for the most part, of remarkable antiquity; forged in the crucible of patristic doctrine, its more systematic character begins to develop in the early Middle Ages, passing into England in the form of the Sarum Breviary, though certain western and Roman uses had been present in England since the Gregorian mission of Augustine of Canterbury. The actual manuscript tradition from which the lectionary emerges dates from the late seventh and early eighth centuries.104 The Prayer Book tradition sharpens and completes the systematic order and coherence of the eucharistic lectionary to form a comprehensive pattern of doctrine. The daily office lectionary and the Sunday office lectionary are ultimately comprehended within that doctrinal pattern.

The practice of reading scripture in the Church originates in the Synagogue worship of Israel, which practice the early church took over and adapted for Christian use.105 The practice of daily reading seems to have begun in the eremitic tradition of the East from which it entered coenobitic forms of monasticism in the East and West; in the West the practice also appears in the religious establishments attached to various churches in Rome.106 The commentary tradition of the Prayer Book frequently quotes Cassian for the practice of reading Old Testament and New Testament lessons at Morning and Evening Prayer, but their origin can also be seen in the Bible readings at the Vigil services and at the Missa Catechumenorum.107 Further developments in the Hours services of the monasteries contributed to the background of the daily office and Sunday office lectionaries of the English Church.108

Within the tradition of monastic services it was mattins or nocturns (the medieval night office) which alone provided regular lessons.109 These lessons drew upon three sources: first, the Bible, in its sets of different kinds of books – the law, the prophets, the epistles, and the gospels; second, patristic homilies and commentaries; and third, the lives of the saints.110 While it had been the intent of the Benedictine rule to read through the greater part of the Bible in the course of the year, this intent increasingly failed to be realized, partly through the encroachment of a greater number of saints’ days upon the regular course of reading, and partly through the development of the breviary.111 The medieval breviary collected the various liturgical books into one book of devotion for the use of clergy and religious according to their rules. Such as enterprise, especially when it was desired to have a portable breviary, resulted in a tendency to fix particular lessons to particular days, and to shorten considerably the length of the passages.112 In any event, the continuous reading of scripture was considerably hindered by the frequency of saints’ days and holy days, each with their proper lessons, by the disjointed, discontinuous and incomplete form of the lessons themselves in the breviary, and by the extended use of non-biblical material.113

By the sixteenth century, dissatisfaction with the breviary prompted reform, of which Cardinal Quinones’ Breviary of the Holy Cross (1535) was the first instance. It was a rather ingenious, but nonetheless radical reform which attempted to establish a new scheme providing principally for the systematic reading of scripture. It endeavoured to read through both the Old Testament and the New Testament in the course of the year by appointing three lessons for each day: first, from the Old Testament; second, from the New Testament; and third, from either the life of a saint (upon a saint’s day) or else from the epistles.114 This Santa Croce Breviary initially grew in acceptance, partly owing to its shortness, and partly due to its primary focus on scripture. It concurred admirably with the desire expressed by Cardinal Girolamo Seripando, the Prior General of the Augustinians at the Council of Trent, that “in Missal and Breviary none but the words of Holy Scripture.”115 Ultimately, however, the Quignonium breviary failed to become the reformed breviary of the Roman Church. It was left for its influence to be felt elsewhere in England, and upon Thomas Cranmer.


Cranmer’s aim was to provide a regular order for the reading of Holy Scripture for the purpose of instruction, not just of the clergy and religious, but for the whole church, clergy and laity alike. Scripture forms the basis of common prayer. The frequency of saints’ days observations, the discontinuity in the readings, the overgrowth of non-biblical material for lessons, and the sheer complexity of the rules determining what was to be read, such that “many times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out”,116 contributed to the obscuring of what the reformers so clearly saw must be made plain and open, and, moreover, must be plain and open for everyone, “that the people (by daily hearing of holy Scripture read in the Church) might continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God, and be the more inflamed with the love of his true religion.”117

“Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation” declare the Anglican formularies.118 It was essential that things necessary for salvation be openly declared unto all. The public reading of Holy Scripture, which is to say, the public or common order by which scripture is appointed to be read, makes us wise unto salvation by the steady increase in us of the knowledge of God. Thus Cranmer had to go farther than theBreviarum Romanum Quignonium in providing for a systematically complete reading of scripture for everyone. That going further was the development of common prayer which was grounded upon the open and regular publication of those things pertaining to our salvation. It was not a matter of reforming a breviary; it was the task of establishing common prayer, the basis of which was the reading of scripture as a doctrinal instrument of salvation. As Geoffrey Willis points out

Even if the daily office of the breviary which is based on the ecclesiastical year, were not interrupted by any immoveable feasts having proper lessons, it would still not provide for the reading of the whole of scripture, as its lessons are too short, and also the variable lessons are confined to the night office.119

In the First Prayer-Book of Edward VI, 1549, Cranmer contracted the medieval hours into two services, mattins and evensong, each with two lessons, one from the Old Testament and the other from the New Testament. This remains the distinctive character of the offices in the common prayer tradition. The lectionary for these offices was based not upon the ecclesiastical year, with its moveable dates of Easter and other feasts, but upon the more fixed character of the civil year. Cranmer’s purpose was to provide for a plain and simple system for the complete and continuous reading of scripture in the course of the year.120 He reduced the number of holy days and, at least with the fixed or immoveable feasts such as the Christmas cycle and saints’ days, he found a way of handling them without the loss of any readings from the regular course.

Few holy days were provided with a complete set of proper lessons; first and second lessons were appointed for the festivals of Christmas, the Circumcision, the Epiphany, Easter Day, and Trinity Sunday, and for the feasts of the Nativity of St. John and Evangelist and All Saints. The remaining holy days either had no proper lessons at all, or only one, invariably a second lesson. The Feast of the Holy Innocents was the only saint’s day exception, having been provided with a first lesson at mattins (Jer. 31). When there was no proper lesson provided, the lesson from the regular course would be read.

The proper lessons were carefully chosen with a view towards the day itself and/or the season. Cranmer showed a fine sense for the relation between the Old and New Testaments in appointing proper first lessons (id est, Old Testament lessons) for Holy Wednesday evensong through the Easter Even mattins, and in appointing proper second lessons (id est, New Testament lessons) for the offices of Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday. The proper first lessons for those days in Holy Week were the ancient lessons for the services of Tenebrae and Good Friday.121 Lamentations was appointed for evensong on Wednesday, mattins and evensong on Thursday, and mattins on Easter Even, while Genesis 22 and Isaiah 53 were appointed for the mattins and evensong of Good Friday.


Cranmer’s daily office lectionary allowed for the reading of most of the Old Testament and Apocrypha once, and for the reading of the New Testament, excluding Revelation, thrice in the course of the year. The Old Testament was read seriatim at the first lessons of both mattins and evensong, beginning in January with Genesis. Also beginning in January was the course of New Testament reading, which was divided between mattins and evensong. At mattins only the gospels, beginning with Matthew, and Acts were read, while at evensong the epistles, beginning with Romans, were read. At both mattins and evensong, the cycle would be repeated three times.

In the case of both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the readings followed the order of the books in the Bible, with one very important exception: Isaiah was not read in its place in the biblical order but was reserved for late November through December so as to attend the season of Advent. Bishop Anthony Sparrow observes: “the Prophet Esay being the most Evangelical Prophet most plainly prophesying of Christ, is reserved to be read a little before Advent.”122 The retention of this ancient practice anticipates in a way the eventual return of the lectionary to the order of the ecclesiastical year.

Thus Cranmer’s 1549 lectionary provides the basis for all subsequent lectionary developments within the common prayer tradition by establishing the two offices of mattins and evensong, by appointing two lessons, an Old Testament and a New Testament lesson, for each office, by composing a comprehensive and continuous system of scripture reading based upon the order of the civil year. The daily office lectionary remained unchanged in these three essentials until the revisions of 1871 and 1922, which in 1922 resulted in an important modification: namely, the ordering of the lectionary upon the ecclesiastical year rather than upon the civil year. In some sense that was the logical outcome of a development which had its earliest beginnings in the 1559 Prayer Book lectionary.

In the matter of the daily office lectionary, the second Prayer-Book of Edward VI, 1552, made only minor changes and alterations, such as replacing the Lamentations readings in Holy Week with lessons from Hosea, Daniel, Jeremiah, and Zechariah.123 Indeed, until 1871 all the subsequent Prayer Book revisions left the essential structure of Cranmer’s 1549 lectionary intact, content to advise only minor alterations.124 The Elizabethan Prayer-Book of 1559 marked the beginning of a new development — a post Cranmerian development.

The Cranmerian lectionaries had appointed no proper lessons for Sundays; instead, the lessons appointed for the particular calendar days in the month were followed. The 1559 Prayer-Book inaugurated the process of providing proper lessons for all the Sundays, saints’ days, and holy days in the ecclesiastical year. Consequently, those few saints’ days and holy days which had been provided with proper second lessons in the 1549 lectionary were now adorned with a full set of propers.

The provision of first lessons for Sundays introduces another programme of scripture reading: it marks the beginning of a Sunday office lectionary which runs its course alongside and complementary to the daily office lectionary. Ultimately, both are comprehended within the doctrinal pattern of the Church year.

The propers for the Sunday offices were chosen with regard for the character of the seasons in the ecclesiastical year. Isaiah was read as the first lesson throughout the Sundays of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, thereby complementing the reading of Isaiah appointed in the offices during Advent and Christmas-tide. That sort of correspondence between the Sunday office, the daily office, and the Church year naturally furthered the desire to make the relation more explicit for the whole year. In the 1559 Prayer-Book, Genesis was begun to be read on Septuagesima Sunday, thereby recovering the older patristic and medieval practice appropriate to the season and preparing the way for the reading of Genesis in the daily office


lectionary when it eventually came to be re-ordered upon the pattern of the ecclesiastical year.

The 1559 Prayer-Book provided proper first lessons for all Sundays. The 1561, 1604, and 1662 Prayer Books made only minor changes, with 1662 making provision for second lessons on certain holy days. The year 1871 marks the first major revision to the lectionary.

The 1871 lectionary was the product of a committee under the chairmanship of Bishop Samuel Wilberforce.125 In some ways this revision is more notable for what it did not do, than for what it did. It did not complete the Sunday propers by providing second lessons for every Sunday at both offices. It did not complete the saints’ days propers by providing second lessons. It did not reorganize the lectionary according to the pattern of the ecclesiastical year.

Nonetheless, it did provide some second lessons. It did introduce a series of alternative first lessons for Sunday evensong,126 the origin, perhaps, of the year I and year II readings in our present Prayer Book. It did provide an alternative second lesson at evensong for those feasts which had proper second lessons. But it also significantly altered the reading of the New Testament in the daily offices by cancelling the division Cranmer had made in 1549 between the reading of the gospels and Acts at mattins and the epistles at evensong. It restored the reading of Revelation by appointing it to be read after December 17th sequentially at Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, thereby insuring that Revelation would be read once in the course of the year. Whereas Cranmer’s system read through the New Testament (minus Revelation) three times in the course of the year, the 1871 lectionary read through the New Testament twice, with the exception of Revelation, which was read once. It sharply cut back the readings from the Apocrypha. But above all, the 1871 lectionary gave impetus to the demand for the re-ordering of the lectionary upon the pattern of the ecclesiastical year, rather than the civil year. Cranmer’s scheme of reading, based upon the civil or calendar year, accomplished admirably his intent to provide for a continuous and complete programme of scripture reading, and complemented the noble aim of establishing the godly commonwealth, but it could not avoid the necessary collision between the daily office system and the system of the Sunday offices which had emerged subsequently.

The older Prayer Book commentators well understood the doctrinal content and use of scripture both in the overall logic of the Christian year and in the complete and continuous reading of the Bible.127 Organizing the reading of scripture according to the civil year, even taking account of leap years, seemed the most simple and most straightforward system for the complete reading of the greater part of the Bible in the course of one year. It was simpler than having to contend with the problems arising from the moveable date of Easter. The increasing demand, however, was to unite more fully and more completely the doctrinal pattern of the Christian year with the regular and ordered programme of scripture. It was desired to organize the reading of scripture according to the ecclesiastical year, instead of the civil year.

The possibility of arranging the daily office lectionary according to the order of the Church year had been realized in various Lutheran lectionaries of the nineteenth century and in the lrvingite lectionary of the so-called Catholic Apostolic Church, perhaps as early as the 1830’s.128 In Anglican circles evidently the Very Reverend Provost Vernon Staley of ‘Hierugia Anglicana fame had designed a proposed lectionary based upon the order of the ecclesiastical year in his book The Revision of the Lectionary.129

In a certain way, the main accomplishment of the 1871 lectionary was the impetus it gave towards two things: first, the establishment of a fully developed Sunday office lectionary; and second, the reordering of the daily office lectionary upon the principles of the ecclesiastical year.


In Canada, the itch for Prayer Book revision began in the 1890’s, coincident with the establishment of the General Synod of Canada in 1893.130 At first an Appendix to the Prayer Book was proposed and duly prepared under the chairmanship of Archbishop Hollingworth Tully Kingdon of Fredericton, assisted by Dean Partridge.131 It got so thoroughly killed at the 1905 General Synod — the Rev. Dyson Hague was said to have knocked it stiff,132 — that years later no copy of it could be found, until one was discovered by Archdeacon Frederick W. Vroom of King’s College, washed up at his feet on the shores of the St. Croix River in New Brunswick, having been carried there by the tides of the Bay of Fundy.133 One may wonder if that isn’t likely to be the fate of our present Canadian Prayer Book – thrown up on the beach with the rest of us beached whales!

In 1911 General Synod permitted the process of Prayer Book revision.134 The Calendar and Lectionary Committee was pan-Canadian under the chairmanship of Archbishop Worrell of Nova Scotia.135 Between the two projects — establishing a coherent and complete Sunday office, and re-ordering the lectionary according to the course of the ecclesiastical year — the Canadian committee chose the former, rather than the latter or both. For it was their leading principle “that the most outstanding portions of Holy Scripture should be provided for the Sunday lections.”136 Consequently, a larger place than in any former lectionary was given to the prophetical writings, and greater use was made of the Wisdom literature.137 But more important was the matter of the selection of the Sunday office New Testament lections. According to Armitage, the committee determined that from Advent to Trinity the morning lessons were to be taken from the gospels so as to set out the story of our Lord’s life; the morning lessons from Trinity to Advent were passages in the epistles and in Revelation chosen in accord with the teaching of the collect, epistle and gospel of the day.138 The evening lessons from Advent to Trinity were chosen from the epistles and Revelation according to the doctrinal character or movement of the church season; from Trinity to Advent, gospel fections were chosen, focusing in the main upon our Lord’s teaching, deeds, and miracles.139

This lectionary was presented to General Synod in 1915 where it received approval and was circulated to the Provincial Synods for deliberation.140 Meanwhile, in England, a committee had been formed to draw up a revised lectionary based upon the ecclesiastical year.141 Their report came out in 1917. Back in Canada, the Provincial Synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada, meeting in 1918, considered the 1915 draftbook, and among a number of recommendations and resolutions requested “that the daily calendar be arranged upon the basis of the ecclesiastical year rather than the civil year.”142

Confronted with the English development, Archbishop Worrell himself argued against the adoption of the 1915 Canadian in favour of the 1918 English.143 Worrell noted that in the matter of prophetical writings, the relation of New Testament lessons to the church season and to the epistle and gospel of the day, and the appointment of alternative lessons, the two committees had been working, though independent of each other, nonetheless along the same lines.144 Worrell acknowledged that the chief weakness of the 1915 Canadian Lectionary was that “it dealt only with Sunday lessons.”145 But the principal problem of the 1915 Canadian proposal was that the lectionary was ordered upon the civil year while, at the same time, the Sunday propers were completed, thereby exacerbating the felt tension between the Sunday and saints’ day services and the daily offices. Thus the 1918 English lectionary, officially called the 1922 lectionary, became the lectionary of the official 1922 Canadian Prayer Book.

The principal features of the 1922 lectionary are outlined by Chairman of the Joint Committee, the Bishop of Ely, Dr. Chase. They were twofold: first, the lectionary was based upon the ecclesiastical year rather than the civil year; second, it provided a complete Sunday office lectionary.146 The 1922 lectionary was a significant achievement, but it was a revision which took place within the common prayer tradition and served to strengthen and make more explicit the doctrinal basis of the use of scripture within that tradition.


In the Sunday office lectionary, the reading of the Old Testament combined the ancient custom of assigning certain books to certain seasons with the reading of books more-or-less in course.147 Thus, on the First Sunday in Advent through to the Second Sunday after Epiphany, passages from Isaiah are appointed. For the remaining Sundays after Epiphany, which after the third Sunday are variable according to the date of Easter, a series of minor prophets, beginning with Hosea, are read. Again, following the ancient practice which the 1559 book had also recovered, the Pentateuch was begun to be read on Septuagesima Sunday. The historical books followed in their biblical order from the first Sunday after Trinity until the fourteenth Sunday. The prophets Daniel, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel are read from the evensong of Trinity Fourteen through to the evensong of Trinity Twenty-two. Lessons from Proverbs are appointed for the remaining Sundays after Trinity, three of which are variable again according to the date of Easter.148

The lectionary provided alternative first lessons for the Sunday offices in order to promote an acquaintance with the more unfamiliar parts of the Old Testament, and to provide occasions for readings from the Apocrypha.149 The latter provision was subsequently removed from the Canadian 1918 Prayer Book.150 This overall programme of alternative lessons ultimately coalesced to form the year I/year II practice.

The appointment of Sunday office second lessons endeavoured to combine the provision for the reading of as much of the New Testament as possible with “variety for successive years and for congregations differing in character. “151 Alternative second lessons were also provided.

The daily office lectionary, now based upon the ecclesiastical year, follows more-or-less closely the Sunday office lectionary. The reading of Isaiah and the minor prophets in the Sundays of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany is attended by the continuous reading of Isaiah and the minor prophets in the daily cycle.152 With Septuagesima, the Heptateuch is begun to be read both in the Sundays and on weekdays, followed by historical, prophetical, and sapiential books.153 The weekday pattern of Old Testament lessons at the daily offices is of ancient origin, reaching back to the seventh and eighth century readings at the Roman night office.

The arrangement of New Testament lessons approximates in some ways Cranmer’s division between mattins and evensong. If at mattins a gospel reading is used, then at evensong a lesson from either Acts or the epistles or Revelation is read.154 The synoptic gospels are read through at least once in the course of the year, while John is read twice.155 The logic of the seasons also obtains in the appointment of the New Testament lessons: on the weekday evensongs between Trinity Sunday and Trinity Eleven, readings from the synoptic gospels are chosen so as to form a more-or-less continuous narrative of our Lord’s life — a harkening back to the custom of the old gospel harmonies.156 Thereafter St. John’s gospel is read. Acts is appointed for Eastertide. The epistles of St. Paul are read not in their biblical order, but in some sort of accord with the chronological reconstruction of biblical criticism.157 Hebrews is appointed for Ascensiontide, beginning to be read at evensong – a very appropriate and sound provision.158 It constitutes one of the many examples of the coherence of the daily office lectionary and the Sunday office lectionary within the comprehensive doctrinal structure of the ecclesiastical year.

The 1922 lectionary forms the basis of the subsequent Prayer Book lectionaries, having brought together into a more explicit and more comprehensive unity the daily office, Sunday office, saints’ days, and eucharistic lectionaries. It forms the basis in essentials for the lectionary contained in our 1962 Prayer Book. That lectionary, however, was once again not a product of the Canadian Church, for with some exceptions, it is, in fact, the revised English lectionary of 1955 which we adopted in our 1959 revision.159

The 1955 lectionary remained in essentials that of the 1922 lectionary, but some changes were introduced which deserve comment. They assist in showing the instructional and formative character of the Prayer Book lectionary tradition, especially in its now fully


developed form. The most interesting development appears in the daily office readings for the early part of the Trinity season.

In the eighth century, the season after Pentecost had not taken systematic shape according to the ecclesiastical year, but was loosely arranged according to the Sundays and weeks of each month.160 It provided a general arrangement, however, for the reading in order of the four books of Kings, Chronicles, and the sapiential books for June, July and August (roughly), and then in September and October Job, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Maccabees, followed in October and November by Ezekiel, Daniel, and the twelve minor prophets.161 This ancient practice informed the 1922 lectionary which, following the ecclesiastical year, appoints the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles beginning in Trinity week, followed by Jeremiah, who is thought to enter into the history at this point, then by Ezekiel as an exilic poet, followed by the post-exilic historians Ezra and Nehemiah with chronologically appropriate extracts from the restoration prophets Zechariah and Haggai who are removed from the order of minor prophets after Epiphany to be inserted here. Then follows Daniel, Esther, I Maccabees and the sapiential books — Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. The Apocryphal works Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, Baruch, and Wisdom complete the Trinity season cycle.162

The 1955 lectionary has dislocated this order by providing for the reading of Job and Proverbs at the beginning of the Trinity season, thus placing the historical cycle, more-or-less as it was in 1922, several weeks later.163 Other changes involve inserting Ecclesiastes, I Maccabees, and Ecclesiasticus after the historical/prophetical sequence, removing Tobit and Baruch to the variable week of Epiphany VI, and retaining Wisdom for the week of the Sunday Next Before Advent. The biblical order of the minor prophets In the first four weeks after Epiphany is altered in favour of what appears to be a historical re-ordering according to the lights of biblical criticism.164

The placing of Job and Proverbs for the weeks immediately following Trinity Sunday helps to emphasize the more clearly articulated doctrinal character of the Trinity season as it has developed in the overall Prayer Book tradition. That we should move from the celebration and vision of God in Himself to the Old Testament sapiential argument of the book of Job, which is concerned with the knowledge and vision of God and that in relation to human acts, earthly circumstances, and ultimately creation, seems most appropriate. That we then should move to the book of Proverbs, with the concern for the practical and moral wisdom grounded upon the fear and knowledge of God, seems equally apposite. Together these works, seen in the divine light of the Trinity, suggest the unity of contemplation and activity which is the truth of our life in the Spirit.

The historical development of the lectionary shows something of the underlying coherence and logic of the use of scripture in our Anglican tradition. The establishment of the two daily offices, each with two lessons (from the Old and New Testaments), the emergence of a Sunday office lectionary, and the ordering of all the scripture readings upon the course of the ecclesiastical year bring out more clearly the doctrinal use of scripture. The reading of scripture is so ordered to make us “wise unto salvation”, to habituate in us things divine, and this according to the ordered presentation of saving doctrine.

We have seen the connection and mutual dependence of the daily office lectionary and the Sunday office lectionary. The whole Prayer Book is composed of such interdependent parts forming a comprehensive pattern of spirituality and devotion. We have seen the influence of the church seasons upon the lectionaries, the increasing demand to make explicit the order of the church year as the principle for the reading of scripture. It remains to consider that order as it appears both in the tradition of commentators upon the Prayer Book, and in the eucharistic lectionary.

There is a remarkably extensive and, to my mind, incredibly rich tradition of commentaries on the Prayer Book within our church from the sixteenth century right through to our own day. For, as always, there was a need to defend and to explain the Prayer Book against


detractors and malcontents, but the very excellence of the Prayer Book itself excited comment and prompted the desire to understand its structure.165

For the most part, that tradition is very clear about the unity, coherence, and purpose of our lectionary. Thus Thomas Comber urges three reasons for the reading or hearing of Holy Scripture in the daily offices of the Church: first, the excellence of scripture for that it is “the Revelation of the whole will of God, so far as is necessary for our Salvation”; second, God’s providential care in having ordained them for our good, adapting himself to our understanding so as to lay down “all necessary and fundamental truths so clearly”; and third, the care of the Church in fitting them “so to our use that there is nothing wanting to make us wise to salvation.”166

The commentators are especially clear about the coherence of the eucharistic lectionary, which manifested so evidently a logical and doctrinal pattern of salvation. The contemporary notion that the collects, epistles, and gospels have no necessary connection or relation would not be favourably entertained by these scholars. Indeed, replies Thomas Bisse, “these old imputations cast upon it, as being a dead letter and a heap of tautologies, can have no foundation, but in ourselves.”167 For, he explains,

Epistles and Gospels are not cast into our Liturgy at random, or as it should happen; but are placed every one in its order, being suited severally to their proper days, and all jointly to the Seasons, which come between and are govern’d by these cardinal or great Festivals.168

It was the order of the Christian year, built around these cardinal and great festivals, which gave coherence and sense to the eucharistic propers. But what exactly was that order of the Christian year, and what exactly was its purpose? Its purpose was to instruct by way of commemoration, and its order was fundamentally the order of doctrine.

For the common prayer tradition, the ecclesiastical year divides into two parts. Bishop Overall states the standard and received view:

The whole year is distinguished into two parts; the one to commemorate Christ’s living here in earth, and the other to direct us to live after his example. For the first part are all the Sundays, appointed from Advent to Trinity Sunday: for the second, all the Sundays from Trinity to Advent again.169

These two parts have their own distinctive character which also determines the character of the Sunday eucharistic propers within each part of the year. Thus Bishop Anthony Sparrow teaches that “the fitness of the Epistle and Gospel for the day it belongs to, and the reason of the choice, will plainly appear, if we observe that these holy festivals and solemnities of the church are of two sorts; the more high days, or the rest.”170

From Advent to Trinity the Church follows the doctrinal moments of the life of Christ. We celebrate the mysteries that belong to our redemption; we “commemorate the signal acts or passages of our Lord in the redemption of mankind.”171 This part of the year follows a logical doctrinal sequence, passing systematically from Christ’s incarnation and nativity, circumcision, manifestation, fasting, passion, death, resurrection and ascension, and the sending of the Holy Ghost, to culminate gloriously in the feast of the Blessed Trinity, which feast Thomas Bisse calls “the great Epiphany, being the manifestation of the Three Persons, as the other Epiphany is only of the Son.”172 This progress sets before us the course of saving doctrine. “All in the most perfect order,” says Bishop Overall, “in all which we see the whole story and course of our Saviour in manifesting himself and his divine mysteries to the world.”173 Bishop John Cosin echoes this teaching of his mentor, and emphasizes the appearance of this doctrinal order in the eucharistic lectionary:

So that the Gospels read through all this part of the year, have their chief end and purpose, to make us know and remember with grateful hearts, what excellent benefits God the Father hath communicated to us first by his Son, and then by the Holy Spirit, making us the heirs of heaven, that before were the sons of Hell: for


which unspeakable goodness, we do most fitly end this part of the year, with giving praise and glory to the whole blessed Trinity.174

Sparrow further underlines this by speaking of this whole course of high festivals as “thereby running, as it were, through a great part of the Creed, by setting before us in an orderly manner the highest Mysteries of our Redemption by Christ on earth, till the day he was taken up into Heaven, with the sending down of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.”175

The second part of the year, from Trinity Sunday until Advent, also has a distinctive character which informs the selection of the epistles and gospels. From the great pageant of doctrine summed up and celebrated in the feast of the blessed Trinity, the Church turns to the inward and practical application of those saving truths. Thus Cosin observes:

The Second part, which contains all the Sundays after that, being for our guidance in the Peregrination that we have living in this world, hath for it such Gospels in order appointed, — as may most easily and plainly instruct and lead us in the true paths of Christianity; that those which are Regenerated by Christ, and Initiated in his Faith, may know what virtues to follow, and what vices to eschew. Thus in the First part, we are to learn the Mysteries of the Christian Religion: in the second, we are to practise that which is agreeable to the same: For so it behoves us, not only to know that we have no other foundation of our Religion but Christ Jesus, born, crucified, and risen for us; but further also to build upon this foundation such a life as he requires from us.176

John Henry Blunt sums up the Prayer Book commentators’ regard for the systematic order of the Trinity season. “The Sundays of the Trinity may be regarded as a system illustrating the practical life of Christianity, founded on the truths previously presented, and guided by the example of our Blessed Lord.177 The gospels of the season set before us Christ’s teaching, his deeds, and his miracles, while the epistles exhort us to the complementary practice of a holy and virtuous life. It is a season to build upon the foundation of our faith “such a life as he requires of us.”178

Trinity season seeks the increase of our spiritual life, the perfecting of the inner man who stands on the doorstep of heaven, gazing into the homeland of Spirit which has been opened out to us by Christ’s sacrifice. And so Thomas Bisse writes:

… during that long interval from Trinity till Advent, the Epistles and Gospels have also but one general view and tendency, to raise in us the several fruits and gifts of the Spirit, and all holy and spiritual affections. So that all the service of this long course of Sundays may be considered as looking, either backward with a grateful regard to the Feast of Pentecost, from which all these graces, that make our services acceptable, flow; or forwards with an awful regard to Advent, the time of our Lord’s coming, for which those graces prepare us: either as testifying, that the Holy Ghost is come; or as fitting us by his aid against the coming of our Lord.179

The epistles and gospels of Trinity season have a relation to each other, but in a sense different from those propers within the doctrinal sequence of Advent through to Trinity. The difference lies in the character of the season: the doctrinal emphasis shifts from the royal progress of the substantial moments in Christ’s life to the life of holiness through the practice of Christian virtue; from the presentation of our justification, as it were, to the programme of our sanctification.

Sparrow observes that the gospels “are of the holy Doctrine, Deeds and Miracles of our Saviour, and so may singularly conduce to the making us good Christians, by being followers of Christ, and replenished with that Spirit which he both promised and sent. . .”180 He details the lessons of virtue “taught us by our Lord in these Gospels”:181

. . . to be charitable, heavenly-minded, repentant, merciful, humble, peaceable, religious, compassionate and thankful, to trust in God and abound with such spiritual qualities. . . “182

And these lessons are taught not only by word and deed but by many miracles:


From his healing of the sick, and going about . doing good, we may learn to employ that power and ability we have in works of mercy and goodness. He that raised the dead, and did such mighty works, can be no other, we may be sure, than God and Man, the Saviour of the world, and able to protect us, even against death itself, to raise our bodies from the dust, and glorifie them hereafter.183

Such a programme is both pertinent to the time and completes the annual presentation of the chief matter and substance of the four evangelists.184 The epistles serve to complement this programme.

In the Epistles for this time there is an Harmony with the Gospels, but not so much as some have thought in their joynt propounding of particular considerations and those several and distinct, as the daies they belong to (for that belongs to more special solemnities) but rather as they meet all in the common stream, the general meditation and affection of the season.185

The character of the season provides the logic for the choice of scripture. The Church in the season of Trinity comes

. . . to use such Epistles, Gospels, and Collects, as suit with her holy affections and aims at this season. Such, namely, as tend to our edifying, and being the living Temples of the Holy Ghost our Comforter with his Gifts and Graces; that having Oyl in our Lamps, we may be in better readiness to meet the Bridegroom at his second Advent or coming to judgement. And this done in the remaining Sundaies till Advent, which in their Services are, as it were, so many Eccho’s and Reflexions upon the Myster of Pentecost (the life of the Spirit) or as Trumpets for preparation to meet our Lord at his second coming.186


Thus the church year is seen as a doctrinally ordered whole, admitting of distinct parts, comprehending particular seasons each with their proper movement and order, but in the dance of the year presenting unto us the whole of saving doctrine. Central to that presentation is the ordered reading of scripture; the doctrinal pattern of the year determines the use of scripture, for scripture is itself the doctrinal instrument of our salvation. By it we learn our justification and our sanctification.

The Prayer Book lectionary comprises the daily office lectionary, the Sunday office lectionary, and the eucharistic lectionary, including the propers for saints’ days and holy days. In their mutual inter-relation and interdependence, they form a comprehensive whole and present unto us a complete programme of sanctification. The lectionary sets forth the scripture of God as “the heavenly meat of our souls,” as the homilist says; “the hearing and keeping of it maketh us blessed, sanctifieth us, and maketh us holy, it turneth our souls; it is a light lantern unto our feet. It is a sure, steadfast and everlasting instrument of salvation.”187

This paper has attempted to show the unity and logic of our Prayer Book lectionary in all its parts. It has argued that the use of scripture as a doctrinal instrument of salvation is the essential foundation of our common prayer tradition. It has endeavoured to show how that principle comes to the fore in the doctrinal pattern of the ecclesiastical year through which the various parts of the lectionary have their coherence and relation.

The Prayer Book lectionary deserves most careful and prayerful attention. We have really only to begin. This paper offers nothing more than a beginning. There is, no doubt, need for revision and room for improvement. After all, “there never was anything by the wit of men so well devised, or so sure established which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted.”188 But in this matter of the Prayer Book lectionary, that corruption need not occur except through our benign or wilfull neglect of what by God’s good providence has been given and entrusted to us. Our Solemn Declaration of 1893 reminds us to be determined “by the help of God to hold and maintain the Doctrine, Sacraments, and Discipline of Christ as the Lord hath commanded in his Holy Word, and as the Church of England hath received and set forth the same in The Book of Common Prayer.”189 At the heart of the Prayer Book lies the reading of Holy Scripture as a doctrinal instrument of salvation; this understanding cannot


“pass away as in a dream.”190 Thus St. Paul exhorts us, “continue thou in those things which thou hast learned and art persuaded, knowing of whom thou hast been taught them” (11 Tim. 3:4). For as Bishop Anthony Sparrow, the Dean of that great school of Prayer Book commentators, reminds us in most timely fashion,

. . . this being the Church’s rule and method (as she hath it from the apostle) “that all things be done unto edifying”, that we may be better acquainted with God, and with ourselves, with what hath been done for us, and what is to be done by us. And this visible as well as audible preaching of Christian doctrine by those solemnities and readings, in such an admirable order, is so apt to infuse by degrees all necessary Christian knowledge into us.191


The endeavour to determine historically the occasion for the choice of readings appointed for specific days has proven elusive and hypothetical. Much remains veiled in the mists of the past. In large measure one has primarily the lectionaries themselves to consider. For whatever occasional causes for the appointment of certain readings there might be, it is the examination of the lectionary in itself that reveals its logic, explains its character, and discloses its purpose.

What the Canadian revisers mean by original readings in their 1980 introduction is unclear. In the Prayer Book tradition, however, it is wrong to say that the readings are all much shorter than what appears in the medieval and earlier lectionaries. Considerably more are lengthened (approx. 35) than shortened (approx. 7),1

The source of the parenthetical remark of the Canadian revisers is most likely Peter G. Cobb’s statement that “the choice of readings was determined by various criteria — by their appropriateness for some ceremony in the catechumenate, by some catchword suitable to the season, by the situation of the Roman stational church or the history of their martyrs or by the proximity of the feast of some great saint honoured in Rome.”2 Cobb draws upon the work of J.A. Lamb and S.J.P. van Dijk, but he relies most heavily upon the more extensive studies of Joseph A. Jungmann.3

The concern of these scholars (et alii) is twofold: first, they seek to reconstruct the way scripture might have been read in the early church before the lectionaries of the western church were actually established, for as Cobb observes, “the first complete lectionaries date only from the seventh century”;4 and, second, they speculate that a form of lectio continua may have been in use, a speculation based upon:

  • (a) the synagogue tradition of reading the Law;5
  • (b) marginal markings in the text of early N.T. manuscripts which suggest the length of lessons;6
  • (c) sermons and commentaries of some Fathers upon whole books of the Bible.7

Lamb notes, however, that it is not certain that the earliest eucharistic readings were lectio continua.8

These scholars recognize, moreover, the signal contribution of another system of reading to the making of lectionaries, the system of selected or thematic readings.9 Both van Dijk and Jungmann comment on the preference or peculiar character of the early Roman liturgy for common themes in epistle and gospel lections.10 Jungmann in particular laments the erosion of the harmonic rapport between the epistle and gospel in subsequent Roman lectionaries.” The Prayer Book eucharistic lectionary preserves, promotes, improves and extends this practice.12

These scholars recognize that the main consideration for selection of readings was the development of the Christian year.13 Jungmann notes:

For feast days, those of our Lord and of the saints, the thought of the feast naturally dictated the choice of both Epistle and Gospel. The same thing was true to a rather wide extent also for festive seasons.14


He proceeds to explain how this appears in Advent, Epiphany, Septuagesima to Easter, and Eastertide. This acknowledges that the doctrinal order of the church year underlies the eucharistic lectionary. With respect to pre-Lent and Lent, he also goes on to say, however, that “above all, it is the Roman stational churches with their martyr graves and local reminiscences that offer the key in many cases to an understanding of the choice of the pericope”15 and adds that “in some instances the proximity of the feast of a great saint honoured in the Roman church appears to have influenced the choice.”16

These speculations, however, do not forsake the overall concern for the logic of the feast or the season, nor do they mean disharmony between the epistle and the gospel. For example, Jungmann points to Lenten masses as instances where “this community of theme is still visible.”17

vanDijk offers two examples of Roman stational churches influencing the choice of readings. Both examples involve not Sundays but Thursdays in the second and third weeks of Lent. The gospel parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) read at the stational church in the Jewish quarter of Rome, he argues, is chosen because they respectively symbolize the Christians and the Jews; the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-44) was read at the station church of SS. Cosmos and Damian because, he argues, they were both physicians.18

Anselm Schott’s (OSBDas Vollständige Römische Messbuch also suggests that there may be a connection between the Roman stational churches where services were held.

Eine grosse Zahl der Fest — und Tagesmesse des Kirchenjahres tragen im römischen Messbuch der Vermerk: Statio von den frohesten zeiten an war man bestrebt, den Gottesdienst womöglich an einem Ort oder in einem Heiligtum zu feiern, das mit dem Feste irgendwie in Beziehung stand.19

In this view St. Paul’s account of fortitude in the face of tribulation is appropriately read on Sexagesima, since the stational church in Rome for that day is St. Paul’s.20

Another instance is the Thursday after the First Sunday in Lent, when the procession from the church of St. Nicholas to the church of St. Anastasia passed through a large marketplace. Consequently the gospel is that of Christ cleansing the temple of the money-changers and the merchants. While Schott thinks that this circumstance may have influenced the choice of the gospel, it does not form the basis of his pastoral explanation for the relation between the lesson and the gospel.

Wir suchen aufrichtig den Herrn (Lesung), sind wir doch lahm und blind (Evang.); allein wir finden im Gotteshause bei der hl. Messfeier Christus, der uns die Gesundheit schenken kann und in her hi. Kommunion unser Herz zu seinem Bethanien macht. (Evang.)21

There are various speculations about the influence the proximity of a great saint’s feast may have had upon the choice of pericopes. Jungmann records A. Vogel’s suggestions that the choice of Luke 5: 1-11, the great catch of fish, for the fourth Sunday in the season of Pentecost (Cdn. BCP, 1962, Trinity V) was induced by the feast of SS. Peter and Paul, those principal fishers of men; Luke 16: 1, the parable of the unrighteous but prudent steward, for the eighth Sunday (Trinity IX) and Mark 7: 31-37, the Ephphatha story, for the eleventh Sunday (Trinity XII), by the feast of St. Lawrence; and Matthew 9: 1-8, the healing of the lame man for the eighteenth Sunday (Trinity XIX) by the feast of SS. Cosmos and Damian, both physicians.22

K.D. MacKenzie speculates that the epistle and gospel chosen for Lent III may have some reference to the alteration of the Basilica of St. Lawrence; that the propers for Lent IV may relate to the station in Rome at the Basilica of ‘the holy Cross in Jerusalem”; that the propers for Trinity III and V possibly refer to the feast of SS. Peter and Paul; that the gospel for Trinity XV perhaps relates to harvest time; that the combining of SS. Philip and James derives from the sixth century consecration of the church of the Sancti Apostoli which contains their relics; that the propers of St. Michael and All Angels originate from those used at the dedication of the Basilica of St. Michael on the Via Salaria; and that the lesson for All Saints derives


from that used at the dedication of the Roman Pantheon as the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and All Martyrs.23

Such observations suggest more that is tentative and plausible than directly causal. The idea that the nearness of great feasts may have influenced the choice of readings has a more probable basis in the ancient titles given to the various sections of Sundays after Pentecost than in the actual readings themselves. The nineteenth century Benedictine commentary The Liturgical Year, in remarking on the Sundays after Pentecost, observes that the eighth century Comes of Alcuin divides this part of the ecclesiastical year into five sections: the first is called ‘Sundays after Pentecost’ (Dominicae post Pentecosten); the second, ‘Weeks after the feasts of the Aposties’ (post natale Apostolorum); the third, ‘Weeks after Saint Lawrence’ (post Sancti Laurenti); the fourth, ‘Weeks of the seventh month’ (September-Lady Day, March 25, formerly marked the beginning of the civil year), and fifth, ‘Weeks after Saint Michael’ (post Sancti Angeli).24

These several sections persisted as late as the sixteenth century, though occasionally some of the titles varied according to feasts of local saints whose days of observation simply provided convenient dates for marking the progress of time during the long season after Pentecost.25 Equally, Schott observes that the preponderance of saints’ days in this period has resulted in its being called ‘Saints’ Time’ (Heiligenzelt) or the ‘Half-year of the Saints’ (Halbjahr der Heiligen).26

Schott does not argue that the proximity of saints’ days influences the appointment of propers for ordinary Sundays. He suggests instead that the saints’ days after Pentecost provided a convenient way of dividing that long succession of Sundays into smaller groups under the name of well-known saints. Another ancient custom from Rome of simply naming and counting the Sundays after Pentecost eventually replaced these sectional divisions.

Nach einigen der ätesten Helligenfeste dieser Zeit wurden früher die ihnen folgenden Sonntage benannt. Man kannte z.B. Sonntage mit der Bezeichnung “nach Peter und Paul”, “nach St. Laurentius”, “nach St. Michael”. So war die lange Reihe der Sonntage nach Pfingsten in kleinere Gruppen unter dem Namen allbekannter Heiligen eingeteilt. lm heute geltenden gottesdienstlichen Kalendar der römischen Kirche werden diese Sonntage gemäss einer andern alten Gewohnheit einfach “nach Pfingsten” benannt und durchgezdält.27

Pope Pius V (1504-1572) regularized these local usages into one practice in the Reformed Roman Breviary of 1568 by establishing the season as the Sundays after Pentecost.28

John Henry Blunt, a nineteenth century Anglican commentator, also notes in passing some of the same connections and allusions, but the sheer weight of the empirical, for the most part, has yet to overwhelm the logic of the doctrinal and the sense of the pastoral in his often useful though limited account of the Prayer Book eucharistic propers.29

Such scholarly observations are indeed interesting, suggestive, and sometimes helpful, but they are neither definitive or exhaustive; they may properly be included within the larger context of the church’s year for they by no means preclude the doctrinal order and movement of the seasons. In themselves they do not constitute a complete or fully adequate account of the principles which underlie the eucharistic lectionary, which inform its development, and which determine its character. In any event, the parenthetical claim of the 1980 Lectionary, that the selection of eucharistic propers is based on word plays on the dedication or topographical surroundings of the Roman stational church, finds scanty support; it remains simply without foundation. It discredits the older eucharistic lectionary by way of misrepresentation and distortion.

Similarly, the claim that the readings in the Trinity season are dislocated from their original order and are therefore unrelated requires closer examination. It may derive from the observation of Proctor and Frere that the epistles “form part of that dislocated series of readings taken in order from S. Paul’s Epistles.”30 For while the epistle readings in the Trinity


season are not exactly lectio continua, the selection of readings from seven Pauline epistles in their New Testament order — Romans (Trinity IV, VI, VII, VIII), I Corinthians (Trinity IX, X, XI), II Corinthians (Trinity XII), Galatians (Trinity XIII, XIV, XV), Ephesians (Trinity XVI, XVII, XIX, XX, XXI), Philippians (Trinity XXII, XXIII) and Colossians (Trinity XXIV) — has given rise to the view that there was originally a system of lectio continua.31

That there was a system of lectio continua properly speaking, however, seems unlikely because there are not sufficient days to read through the whole corpus of even the Pauline epistles, and the ‘interruptions’ to the sequence are as old, for the most part, as the rest of the appointed readings.32 It seems that the Trinity season presents instead an ordered selection from a substantial number of Pauline and catholic epistles, together with appropriate gospel pericopes focusing on the doctrine, deeds, and miracles of our Lord. As Blunt states, “The Sundays after Trinity may be regarded as a system illustrating the practical life of Christianity, founded on the truths previously presented, and guided by the example of our Blessed Lord.”33

Procter and Frere’s dislocated series of readings cannot be taken to mean a lack of coherence, order and system to the Trinity season, since they admit a logic to the readings in accord with the character of the season. “The Epistles are a series of exhortations to the practice of Christian virtues.”34 They do not argue that the readings are therefore unrelated. Though the Trinity season, or the Sundays after Pentecost, was the last season of the ecclesiastical year for which lessons were appointed specifically for each Sunday, the Prayer Book tradition, nonetheless, has maintained and developed further the order and coherence of this season. This part of the church year, however, admits of a different character from that of the Advent to Pentecost sequence; a difference which the older commentators well understood. (See Part III, pp. 37-40).

In the Roman Catholic Church, on the one hand, the season of Pentecost has undergone a number of changes, resulting in the dislocation of the order of the epistles and gospels. These changes, which were the result of gradual developments during the High and Late Middle Ages, became definitive and settled in the sixteenth century Counter-Reformation reforms.35 In general, the difference in the appointment of particular readings derives from the various ways in which the Sundays after Pentecost took shape, especially in relation to the accommodation of octaves and what the ancient ordines call Dominica vacat, the ’empty’ Sundays after Ember Saturday Vigil ordinations with accompanying Mass.36 The eucharistic lectionary of the Prayer Book, on the other hand, remained in critical continuity with the older western tradition through the Sarum Missal, thereby avoiding some of the later dislocations and preserving a more coherent set of propers.

The English church avoided the dislocation of epistles and gospels for the time between Pentecost and Advent that occurred in the Roman church.37 Many of the problems claimed for in the season from Pentecost to Advent pertain to the order of readings found in their definitive form in the Roman lectionary from the sixteenth century onwards.38 They do not apply to the order of epistles and gospels found in the Sarum Missal and derived unto the Prayer Book. These dislocations explain the divergences between the pre-Vatican II Roman Church and the Church of England in the propers appointed for this part of the church year. The convergence of a number of factors perhaps provides something of an account for these differences.

What is now commonly known as Trinity Sunday, or the First Sunday after Pentecost, was anciently a Dominica vacans, being the Sunday immediately following the Pentecost Ember Saturday Vigil ordinations.39 When this practice fell into disuse, there was need for the appointment of propers for the First Sunday after Pentecost. Thus Luke 6: 36-42, beginning with ‘Be ye merciful, as your Father is merciful’, which had been the gospel for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost — popularly known as ‘the Sunday of mercy’ — became the gospel appointed for the First Sunday after Pentecost.40 Subsequently, the remaining gospels for the time after Pentecost were simply brought forward by one week; hence the dislocation of the epistles and


gospels, especially for the first part of the season.41 The Sarum Missal, however, avoided this dislocation. While this goes a long way towards explaining the divergences, it does not completely exhaust the complications.

The growing desire for the regular observance of the Feast of the Holy Trinity meant a gradual movement away from votive masses to the observance of the feast on the First Sunday after Pentecost.42 In England, the observance of this day as Trinity Sunday was established very early; in 1162 St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury instituted its celebration.43 Elsewhere in Europe the idea for the regular observance of the Feast of the Holy Trinity grew, but there was some variation as to the actual day appointed for its celebration.

Common observance was established in 1334 by Pope John XXII, who decreed the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Trinity on the First Sunday after Pentecost.44 The appointment of propers appropriate to that feast meant the displacement of those which had come to be read on the First Sunday after Pentecost. Consequently, the First Sunday after Pentecost was reduced to simply a commemoration at the Mass of the Feast of the Holy Trinity, the ‘mercy’ gospel, Luke 6: 36-42, appearing as the Last Gospel at High Mass instead of John 1: 1-14. But the epistles and gospels throughout the early part of the season remained in their dislocated order originally occasioned by the moving of Luke 6: 36-42 from the Fourth to the First Sunday after Pentecost.

The various titles given to the sections of the time after Pentecost gave way in England to the term Trinity season, with the Sundays being reckoned after Trinity, rather than after Pentecost. The early institution of the Feast of the Holy Trinity in England on the First Sunday after Pentecost meant the appointment of suitable propers for the day but without the consequence of disrupting the ordered relation of the epistles and gospels in the subsequent Sundays. The Sundays are simply numbered after Trinity. Thus the English Church avoided the dislocation of readings altogether, partly by establishing early-on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, and partly by maintaining the order and coherence of the eucharistic lectionary which it had received.

The BAS speculation that some of the epistles and gospels in the post-Trinity season were dislocated from their original order has no bearing upon the Prayer Book eucharistic lectionary. Such a view rather concerns the older pre-Vatican II Roman lectionary, especially after it received a more definite form in the sixteenth century. The Prayer Book tradition, by drawing extensively upon the Sarum Missal, altogether avoided this dislocation of the epistles and gospels. Thus it maintains an older form of the order of the Trinity season upon which it subsequently made improvement.

The BAS criticism of the Prayer Book eucharistic lectionary is misapplied; and by misapplication, it seriously misrepresents. Such misrepresentations certainly show that the Canadian revisers have not given the Prayer Book lectionary careful and thoughtful consideration. In their haste to embrace the new Roman, they have been quick to jettison the old Anglican.



1 Stephen W. Sykes, The Integrity of Anglicanism (Oxford, 1978), p. 46.

2 Book of Common Prayer (Canada, 1962), p. 715. Hereafter cited as Cdn. BCP, 1962.

3 See Breviarium Romanum a Francisco Cardinali Quignonio editum, ed. J.W. Legg (Cambridge, 1888), pp. xix-xxxii. See also Geoffrey Cuming, A History of Anglican Liturgy, 2nd. ed. (1969; rpt. London, 1982), pp. 47-51; and also Geoffrey Cuming, The Godly Order (London, 1983), pp. 1-25.


4 See Part I, n. 22 and n. 26, and Part III, pp. 38-42.

5 Richard Hooker, The Laws of Ecclesiastical polity, Works, Vol. II, ed. J. Keble (Oxford, 1841), p. 85.

6 The Lectionary (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1980). Hereafter cited as The Lectionary, 1980.

7 The Book of Alternative Services (BAS) appeared in September 1985, subsequent to the presentation of this paper in Charlottetown in June, 1985. The preparation of the paper necessarily involved the use of the 1983 draft version of the BAS Lectionary. The draft took the form of printer’s proofs with sectional pagination. Since the BAS is now available, it seems more convenient to note all references according to its more complete and proper pagination rather than according to the numbering of the draft form. The lectionary in the BAS differs only slightly from the 1983 draft version. The lectionary is based upon the Ordo Lectionum Missae (OLM) of Rome (see n. 8) which has been amended by the (North American) Consultation on Common Text (CCT) and which has been recommended for trial use for 1983-1986 (Common Lectionary — The Lectionary Proposed by the Consultation on Common Texts (New York: Church Hymnal Corporation, 1983), p. 5, The introduction to the lectionary of the draft version of the BAS states explicitly the position of the CCT that an amended edition was issued “for experimental use between 1983 and 1986 with a view to a final revision in 1986” (intro., p. 02). Curiously, this statement has been altered in the actual BAS to indicate “a final revision around the end of the decade”. (The Book of Alternative Services Toronto, Anglican Book Centre, 1985), p. 263, hereafter cited as BAS). The 1980 Lectionary was essentially that of OLM. Serious criticism from biblical scholars about the appointment of Old Testament lessons, especially during Ordinary Time, has evidently prompted the amended edition of CCT which seeks to adapt the typological use of the O.T. with semi-continuous reading of parts of the O.T. (Common Lectionary — CCT, pp. 9-10), CCT seeks the harmonization and adaptation of the Roman Lectionary and its denominational variants, but apparently remains in fundamental agreement with its primary principles and assumptions. It remains to be seen, however, whether this amended edition, with its aim of identical practice, will be accepted by Rome and the other churches now using OLM-based lectionaries. The semi-continuous reading of the O.T. during Ordinary Time, moreover, still presents problems about the use of the Old Testament and about the overall doctrinal coherence of the BAS lectionary (see n. 64).

8 “Ordo Lectionum Missae” in Missale Romanum (Vatican, 1969), hereafter cited as OLM. I am indebted to Mr. Christopher Adier for providing me with a copy of the prefatory material of this document.

Part I

9 The size and resources of the Roman Catholic Church are cited as obvious reasons for the adoption of OLM. This argument of universality through Rome, however, is ironic as, at the same time, they complain that the readings in the older lectionary represent “the triumph of the city of Rome in the development of Western liturgy” and consequently present features which are “particularly Roman.” The Lectionary, 1980, p. 5.

10 The Lectionary, 1980, p. 6.

11 The Lectionary, 1980, p. 6.

12 The Lectionary, 1980, p. 7.

13 BAS, p. 263.

14 BAS, p. 263.

15 BAS, p. 263.

16 The weekday Lectionary provides two daily readings. The first reading is from the Old Testament in even years and from one of the New Testament writings


other than the Gospel in odd years. The Gospel follows a one-year cycle. (The Lectionary, 1980, p. 18.)

The principles upon which this lectionary is constructed follow the general lines of the proposed Sunday eucharistic lectionary— a combination of thematic and semi-continuous readings.

During Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Eastertide, the two readings are directly related. During the rest of the year this relationship has been abandoned In favour of a semi-continuous reading of Scripture. (The Lectionary, 1980, p. 9.)

17 The Lectionary, 1980, p. 8.

18 The Lectionary, 1980, p. 17.

19 Some guidance would presumably have been obtained from the Order of Divine Service once this aid began to include the daily office lectionary readings.

20 The Canadian revisers tend to restrict the term lectionary to the Sunday eucharistic lectionary and regard schedules of readings for the offices as additional guides to the liturgical reading of Holy Scripture. This downplays both the relation of the offices to the eucharist and their intrinsic importance. BAS, p. 264.

21 BAS, P. 450.

22 BAS, p. 450. The older commentators understood well the importance of the two readings — one from the Old, the other from the New Testament — at each of the daily offices in the common prayer tradition. Hooker, for instance, recalls the ancient interest in the relation of the two Testaments and points out the pastoral significance for the programme of sanctification:

The cause of their reading first the Old Testament, then the New, and always somewhat out of both, is most likely to have been that which Justin Martyr and St. Augustin observe in comparing the two Testaments. “The Apostles,” saith the one, (Justin Martyr) “have taught us as themselves did learn, first the precepts of the Law, and then the Gospels. For what else is the Law but the Gospel foreshewed? What other the Gospel than the Law fulfilled? In like sort the other, (Augustin) “What the Old Testament hath, the very same the New containeth; but that which lieth there as under a shadow is here brought forth into the open sun. Things there prefigured are here performed.” Again, “in the Old Testament there is a close comprehension of the New, in the New an open discovery of the Old.” To be short, the method of their public readings either purposely did tend, or at least doth fitly serve, “That from smaller things the mind of the hearers may go forward to the knowledge of greater, and by degrees climb up from the lowest to the highest things.”

Here Hooker is quoting Walafrid Strabo. Hooker, Works, Vol. 11, pp. 75-76.

Thus the general Augustinian theme ab exterioribus ad interiora, ab lnterioribus ad superiora appears in the Prayer Book understanding of the sequence, order, and rhythm of the daily offices which are built around these two readings. And indeed, it applies to the whole programme of sanctification. Moreover, Augustine’s understanding of the integral relation of intellect and will, developed through the Middle Ages and Reformation, may be seen to appear in the commentators’ treatment of the pastoral significance of the office sequence: psalm, Old Testament lesson, Canticle, New Testament lesson, Canticle, Creed. See Richard Mant,The Book of Common Prayer with notes Explanatory, Practical and Historical from Approved Writers of the Church of England, ed. W. Baxter for J. Parker and F.C. and J. Rivington (Oxford and London, 1820), pp. 19-36.

Thomas Bisse argues the pastoral significance of the harmony and order of the readings in terms of the strengthening of the will and the enlightening of the mind. “As by this harmony of the lessons the faith of the hearers is established; so by the order, wherein they are read, the understanding is enlightened.” The Beauty of Holiness in the Common-Prayer: As set forth in Four Sermons Preach’d at the Rolls Chapel (London, 1716), Sermon 11, p. 57.


23 BAS, p. 450.

24 While this is especially and almost invariably the case with the daily office lectionary, it also applies in large measure to the Sunday office lectionary for most of the Sundays in Advent and Epiphany, forSeptuagesima and Sexagesima, and for some Sundays in Eastertide. At other times the readings often follow seriatim from one Sunday to the next at the same office. Overall, the Sunday office lectionary principally follows the logic of the church year and within that, seeks to provide a large and doctrinally comprehensive presentation of both the Old and New Testament. (See Charles Wheatly, A Rational Illustration of the Book of Common Prayer (London, 1853), pp. 136, 137; see also Mant, The Book of Common Prayer, pp. 23-24.

The older commentators knew full well that not everyone would or could say the offices daily and regularly (see Mant, pp. 23-24). Thomas Bisse observes:

But one thing 1 must remind you, that on Sundays, the chief days of the assembly, the first Lessons are so wisely chosen out, as to contain all the most material and instructive passages in the Old Testament. By this method the Poorer Sort, who have neither skill to read the Scriptures, nor always leisure to attend the reading of them on the weekdays, even these have not only the Gospel preached unto them, but moreover Moses and the Prophets read to them every Sabbath day (The Beauty of Holiness, pp. 59-61).


This reference to Moses and the Prophets contains a nice allusion to the gospel parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:19ff) appointed for the eucharist on the First Sunday after Trinity. It implies a double meaning to the “Poorer Sort”. Not only does he have in mind the illiterate, poor-in-the-world but also the worldly, “certain rich man”. Through the Sunday offices all manner of men, in all manner of circumstances, have preached unto them the essential teachings of the Old and New Testament. The subsequent developments of the Sunday office lectionary sought to enhance this general concern by providing a set of designated second lessons for each Sunday and a two-year cycle of lessons. Moreover, in both Canada and England, the lectionary revisions that issued in the 1922 Canadian Book of Common Prayer paid particular attention to the further provision of readings from the Old Testament prophetical writings. See Part III, pp. 44-45 and n. 135.

25 An alternative office authorized for use In England in 1971 and presented in a modern English version in 1975 follows the 1968 Daily Office — an ecumenical production of the Joint Liturgical Group. Concerning the reading of scripture in the ecumenical Daily Office, Geoffrey Cuming observes: “A new lectionary was provided, with shorter daily portions, the OT being spread over two years, and the NT over one. The evening office has only one lesson; the Psalter is recited four times a year instead of twelve.” “The Office in the Church of Englland” in The Study of the Liturgy, ed. Jones, Wainwright, and Yarnold (Oxford, 1978), p. 395. For an account of the orderly reading of the Holy Scripture in the offices of the Prayer Book tradition, see Part III, pp. 41-46.

26 Geoffrey Cuming comments on the orderly reading of scripture as the basis of the pattern of the offices: “Doubtless Quiñones had provided the original inspiration, and the Lutheran orders may also have made their contribution, but most probably Cramer arrived at this pattern simply by putting into practice his principle of letting nothing interfere with the orderly reading of Holy Scripture.” See “The Office” in The Study of the Liturgy, p. 393. See also Part Ill, pp. 38-41.

27 See Part II, pp. 34-37, and notes 66 and 67.

28 The Lectionary, 1980, p. 7.

29 See Part III, pp. 41-43.

30 See Part III, pp. 45-46.

31 See Part III, pp. 47-49, and note 62.

32 See Introduction, pp. 29-30, and Part III, pp. 39-41.

33 BAS, p. 264 and p. 450.


34 BAS, p. 264.

35 BAS, p. 264.

36 BAS, p. 265.

37 Interestingly enough, George Black of the Doctrine and Worship Committee repeatedly admitted that the proposed alternatives to the daily offices meant the loss of common prayer. (Clergy Conference, Diocese of Nova Scotia, held at the University of King’s College, Halifax, Nova Scotia, June 5-7, 1985.)

38 These churches “had eucharistic lectionaries which shared a significant number of common texts, although the texts themselves were not always read on the same Sundays.” The Lectionary, 1980, p. 5. In speaking of the Prayer Book from 1549 down to 1662, W.K. Lowther Clarke observes that “the Collects, Epistles and Gospels of the Temporale are for the most part those of the Sarum Missal, only nine of the Collects being new, while of the Epistles and Gospels, some are lengthened or shortened, and a few Epistles and two Gospels are changed.” Liturgy and Worship, ed. W.K. Lowther Clarke (London, 1932), p. 157. From 1662 the changes are equally minor but serve to illustrate and to emphasize the doctrinal use of scripture through the further development of the logic of the church year. For a fuller account of the changes in the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book eucharistic lectionary, see note 188. The antiquity of the eucharistic lectionary significantly antedates the Sarum Missal (c. 13th cy.), reaching back to the patristic and early medieval period. The variations among the aforementioned churches between Sundays in the appointed lessons are explained by reference to the further development of the church year from the early Middle Ages onwards. See note 40 and, especially, Appendix.

39 That there was a common eucharistic lectionary among these churches shows their agreement on essential doctrine, just as Dr. Johnson observed of Presbyterian (Calvinists), Catholics, and Anglicans, that though there is “a prodigious difference” between their external forms” yet the doctrine taught is essentially the same.” Boswell’s Life of Johnson as quoted in Norman Sykes’ Old Priest and New Presbyter (Cambridge, 1956), p. 1. When our Canadian revisers fault the older lectionaries as not being common by intent they would appear to mean that the intent was not primarily ecumenical in the sense of intending to do what the other churches were doing. In other words, it wasn’t common by the same ecumenical intent that informs the proposed lectionary; thus the old is judged by the standard of the new. To suggest that the older common lectionary is an historical accident overlooks the development of the eucharistic lectionary in the western tradition from the early Middle Ages onwards and impugns the work of the Reformers and the Counter-Reformers who attended to the eucharistic lectionary and made intentional improvements. In the case of the English Reformers, it meant making improvements to the eucharistic lectionary.of the Sarum Missal in accord with the programme of common prayer. Certainly their intent was to maintain critical continuity with the tradition. But by no means was it a matter of receiving unthinkly an historical deposit, as the juxtaposition of intent and accident would seem to imply.

The doctrinal integrity of the eucharistic lectionary accounts for its common use. The English and Lutheran Reformers did not intend to follow Roman usage because it was Roman, nor did they intend to break from it just because it was Roman; rather, they retained and improved upon whatever in it was intrinsically good and excellent. This was especially characteristic of the English reformation, which Hooker called a “moderate kind” Works, 1, p. 487). In accord with this Hooker would remind us:

We have most heartily to thank God therefore, that they amongst us to whom the first consultations of causes of this kind fell, were men which aiming at another mark, namely the glory of God and the good of this his church, took that which they judged thereunto necessary, not rejecting any good or convenient thing only because the church of Rome might perhaps like it. (Works, 1, p. 447).

Among those good and convenient things is the lectionary, which pertains to the public and common order of the church’s life. For


. . . in truth the ceremonies which we have taken from such as were before us, are not things that belong to this or that sect, but they are the ancient rites and customs of the Church of Christ, whereof ourselves being a part, we have the selfsame interest in them which our fathers before us had, from whom the same are descended unto us. (Works, I, p. 445).

40 The Lectionary, 1980, p. 5. The ‘little revisions’ of the sixteenth century are, however, quite significant. They concern the sharpening and clarifying of the doctrinal pattern of the church year. This is especially true of the Sundays in Advent, after Epiphany, and after Trinity, though changes were made to every part of the church year. For instance, the revision made in the lectionary to the Sundays after Epiphany are particularly made in the lectionary to the Sundays after Epiphany are particularly important for the consideration given, first, to the ordered sequence of manifestations and, second, to the double duty which the lections for the later Sundays after Epiphany perform during the last few Sundays after Trinity as a kind of prelude to Advent. This development was continued in the seventeenth century with the provision for a collect, epistle and gospel for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany made by Bishop John Cosin (The Durham Book, ed. G.J. Cuming (London, 1975), p. 109). This provision was included in the 1662 Prayer Book in order to avoid the repetition of the propers for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany on the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany or for both the Twenty-fifth or Twenty-sixth Sundays after Trinity in those years wherein the date of Easter required one or the other expedient. Thus the rubric in our 1962 Canadian Prayer Book, p. 258. Cuming, moreover, observes with respect to the collect for the Third Sunday in Advent (generally ascribed to Cosin) that like the collect for Epiphany VI (also ascribed to Cosin) “it draws on both Epistle and Gospel, a point to which Cosin attached importance” (The Durham Book, p. 103, n. 145). Cuming records Cosin’s own view with respect to the proper collects used at the Holy Communion: “And ye Collect for ye day is alwayyes most properly used together with Epistle & Gospel, whereunto many times it relateth.” (The Durham Book, p. 137, n. 209, Part 46). “Cosin’s own collects always ‘relate to the Epistle and Gospel.” (The Durham Book, p. 137, n. 209, Part 46).

41 The new lectionaries are a product of modern biblical critical scholarship (The Lectionary, 1980, p. 6). They may be seen to incorporate some of the essential features of that scholarship; principally, the separation between scripture and doctrine insofar as doctrine is assumed to be an intellectual structure imposed upon scripture from without, rather than seen as emerging from within the content of scripture itself. Moreover, passages in scripture are often read or not read according to a canon of historicity, rather than doctrine. Generally speaking, in this activity the scriptures are divorced from the church who gave them birth and in turn was given birth by them. That dialectical relationship is the work of the Holy Spirit. For a more complete discussion of biblical criticism, see W.J. Hankey’s forthcoming article, “Preparing for a Post-Critical Theology: Biblical Criticism and the End of Contemporary Culture” in No Abiding City, ed. W.J. Oddie (London: SPCK, 1985). That parish priests have complained about the older eucharistic lectionary may simply mean that they have carried the biblical criticism they imbibed at seminary into their parishes. But the problem is more likely that in their training they have not been taught the history and use of scripture in the Prayer Book tradition. This is not to dismiss out of hand modern biblical criticism but rather to call attention to the consequences of making its assumptions that basis of the church’s use of scripture. The development of the lectionary in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, primarily the daily office lectionary and the Sunday office lectionary and only to a lesser degree the eucharistic lectionary, witness the utilization of modern biblical scholarship. It is used, however, within the common prayer tradition of the doctrinal use of scripture and is subject to that programme, rather than, as now, made the basis of the church’s use of scripture. It should be noted, moreover, that Rome has embraced biblical criticism after a long period of resistance, and that the OLM lectionary was produced in their initial excitement about


modern biblical studies. Its naive acceptance of that scholarship is incommensurate with the directions that modern biblical scholarship is now taking in the increased awareness of precisely those assumptions which divorced scripture and doctrine, and which impugned the integrity of the biblical texts per se and the canon of scripture as a whole (cf. B. Childs, James Barr, J. Rogerson, G.A. Lindbeck, A. Lowth, Henning Graf Reventlow, etc.). OLM is regarded as an outdated and immature production; the substantial revision of it is now being demanded. This is especially true of the use of the Old Testament, supposedly one of great advances of the new lectionary, which, according to George Black of the Doctrine and Worship Committee, has been found inadequate by reason of an over-simplistic ‘proof-texting’ to the gospel pericope. (Clergy Conference, Diocese of Nova Scotia, held at the University of King’s College, Halifax, Nova Scotia, June 5-7, 1985). Yet the 1983 CCT amended edition of OLM which we have in the BAS explicitly sought to overcome this felt inadequacy by broadening the typological basis of the selection of O.T. lessons and by providing for a semi-continuous programme during Ordinary Time.

42 The Lectionary, 1980, p. 5. The obvious polemic of this hardly bears comment. Suffice to say that for the western tradition, and especially for common prayer within that tradition, the two readings are demonstrably related. Moreover, preachers who seek to make the connection explicit for the purposes of instruction do so not by imposing a theme on top of the readings, but by discovering the relation in and through the overall integrity of the Prayer Book’s use of scripture and the ordered doctrinal pattern of the Christian year. See Part III, pp. 47-49, and notes 40, 43 and 62.

43 A whole catena of texts and authors.could be marshalled to demonstrate the general view that the propers are related. See especially Part III of this paper. Throughout, reference will be made to authors who argue explicitly for their relation. The lectionaries of the western church emerge out of the profound view of the doctrinal unity of scripture. St. Augustine, for instance, speaks generally of the consonance of the divine lessons: “Apostolum audivimus, psalmum audivimus, evangetium audivimus, consonant omnes divinae lectiones” (Sermo 165 de Verb. Apost. tom. V, ed. Benedict, p. 796 as quoted in W. Paimer’s Origines Uturgicae (London, 1845), p. 47). It is especially characteristic of the homilectical and devotional tradition within Anglicanism to work out the connection between the collect, epistle, and gospel within the framework of the doctrine of sanctification (cf. Nicholls, Sparrow, Cosin, Wheatly, Stanhope, Mant, Blunt, Dunlop, etc.).

The whole tradition reveals a mighty, valiant cloud of witnesses. G.W.O. Addleshaw captures nicely something of the spirit of that tradition when he observes that the sense of “the place of the liturgy in the life of the soul” for the seventeenth century Anglican divines meant “great emphasis on instructing the laity in its [the Liturgy’s principles and meaning.” He finds an attractive illustration of this point in George Herbert, who “was in the habit of explaining the structure of the Prayer Book to the people of Bemerton; he dealt with the meaning of the prayers, the connection between the collect, epistle, and gospel for the day, and showed the reason for all that was done in the service.” G.W.O. Addleshaw, The High Church Tradition: A Study In the Liturgical Thought of the Seventeenth Century (London, 1941), p. 60

44 The Lectionary, 1980, p. 5. The development of the eucharistic lectionary from the early Middle Ages onwards shows rather the considered and systematic use of scripture. See Part III. Moreover, the ordered reading of scripture forms the basis of the common prayer tradition. At the centre of that ordered reading is the eucharistic lectionary, received from the tradition and improved upon by the English Reformers. By ‘erosion’ the Canadian revisers seem to mean that less scripture is read than what is provided for in the new lectionary at the eucharist. This makes quantity the primary consideration. But see notes 66 and 67. It also overlooks the fundamental character of the eucharistic lectionary, which does not seek to present a quantitative, continuous reading of scripture, but sets forth the essential moments of saving doctrine in an ordered sequence. That substantial or doctrinal pattern forms the basis of the quantitative approach taken up in the daily offices. See Part III, pp. 38-46.


45 The Lectionary, 1980, p. 5. Also see Appendix.

46 BAS, p. 262. Also see Appendix. This statement both misrepresents and distorts the character of the older eucharistic lectionary.

47 BAS, p. 262. Also see Appendix.

48 BAS, p. 262. Again, this is a polemical remark (however muted in tone from the 1980 Lectionary it may be) which aims at discrediting the whole western development by mere assertion and not by reasoned argument based on actual evidence. The concern of the English Reformers, in particular, was to provide an ordered system for the reading of scripture in the daily and regular life of the church for the express purpose of instruction and edification. See Introduction, pp. 2-3, and Part III.

49 BAS, p. 262. This overlooks two important points. First, it overlooks the pastoral life of the Anglican Church which comprehends two different kinds of tendencies of eucharistic piety: the one preferring less frequent, monthly, or quarterly communion; the other frequent or weekly communion. One ought not to be disparaged in favour of the other. Second, it ignores that even when there was not Sunday communion, the Sunday worship often included mattins, litany, and ante-communion at which, therefore, the eucharistic propers would have been read. See Peter Waido, A Commentary, Practical and Explanatory on the Liturgy of the Church of England as used on Sundays (London, 1772). Evensong then followed later in the day. Morever, the offices of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are to be understood not in their isolation, but in their relation to the Holy Communion. Martin Thornton argues their immediate connection as an important part of the comprehensive and systematic character of the Book of Common Prayer, though in my view he fails to appreciate how the radical changes to the office lectionary which he proposes would undermine “the foundations, the overall plan, the classic proportions” of the Prayer Book, the basic structure of which he wishes to retain: “for goodness’ sake let us leave the basic structure alone.” Martin Thornton, English Spirituality (London, 1963), pp. 257-281, but especially pp. 263 and 271. In general, his difficulty in appreciating the reformed character of the Prayer Book results in the failure to grasp how essential the ordered reading of the whole of scripture is for the common prayer tradition. His proposals would represent the incursion of the breviary tradition into the Prayer Book pattern. The present lectionary revisions also result in a reversion to a kind of breviary for the offices, with their many options and variables (see Introduction, pp. 29-30; Part 1, pp. 31-32; and Part III, pp. 40-41). The interdependence of the services through the liturgical year, by the ordered reading of scripture, and in the pattern of public worship is well comprehended and nicely presented by Colin Dunlop in his extremely useful and fine little book, Anglican Public Worship (London, 1953), especially Chapter VI, “The Book of Common Prayer”.

50 See note 49.

51 BAS, p. 262. See Part I, p. 31; Part II, p. 34; and note 49.

52 See Part II, pp. 34-37, and notes 62, 64, and 67.

53 See Part III, pp. 46-50, and Appendix.

Part II

54 OLM, caput I.I.1.

55 OLM, I.II.3.

56 OLM, I.II.3.

57 OLM, I.II.3.

58 OLM, I.II.3.

59 OLM, I.II.3 et Tempus ‘per annum’, II.V.15.I.

60 OLM, I.II.3.

61 OLM, I.II.3.

62 The Prayer Book design of the Epiphany season is to manifest the glory and set forth the divinity of Christ through an ordered


sequence, comprising first, divine wisdom, and second, divine power (cf. the collect for the First Sunday after Epiphany, Cdn. BCP, 1962, p. 123). The manifestation of divine wisdom — Christ teaching in the Temple of Jerusalem (Epiphany I) — precedes the manifestations of divine power: Christ turning water into wine at the Wedding of Cana (Epiphany II); Christ healing the leper (Epiphany III); Christ stilling the sea-storm by his words (Epiphany IV); Christ gathering in the wheat and tares of the world for judgement (Epiphany V); and Christ in the glory of his second coming (Epiphany VI). These last two manifestations are conveniently designed to perform double duty at the end of the Trinity season in anticipation of the season of Advent (see note 40). The epistles exhort us to an imitation and a manifestation of Christ in our lives and, in the light of his divine majesty, to steadfastness and hope in him throughout the tribulations of the world.

The pre-Lenten Sundays SeptuagesimaSexagesima, and Quinquagesima prepare us for the journey and discipline of Lent by the inculcation of the cardinal virtues of temperance, justice, prudence, and fortitude transformed by the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity — primarily by charity, the chief of these. The Trinity season presents a system of practical Christianity through the application of saving doctrine unto individuals in all circumstances of life by way of Christ’s example, and by means of God’s revelation in Christ. (See Part III, p. 37). Thomas Bisse points out that the Sundays after Trinity may be considered as looking either backwards to Pentecost and Trinity Sunday in the light of which Christian practical life is undertaken, or forwards to the time of the coming of our Lord in Advent (see Part III, pp. 38-40 and note 179). The logic and character of Epiphany season, the season of pre-Lent, and Trinity season disappears in the face of Tempus ‘per annum’. “Incipit feria secunda quae sequitur dominicam post diem 6 ianuarii occurrentem, et protrahitur usque ad feriam tertiam ante Quadragesimam inclusive; iterum incipit feria secunda post Dominicam Pentecostes et explicit ante I Vesperas dominicae primae Adventus” (OLM, caput II.V.15.1). For while the second Sunday in ordinary time retains its traditional relation to Epiphany with the gospel story of the Wedding at Cana, the third Sunday actually begins the course of semi-continuous reading of the three synoptic gospels: “A dominica III incipit lectio semi-continua trium Evangeliorum synopticorum; haec lectio ita ordinatur ut praebent doctrinam unicuique Evangelio propriam dum evolvitur vita et praedicatio Domini” (OLM, II.V.15.1). OLM intends a harmony between the sense of each gospel and the evolution of the liturgical year, but the principle lectio semi-continua vitiates the realization of this in anything other than a vague and general sense. It has nothing of the doctrinal clarity of the Prayer Book lections.

63 OLM, II.V.15.1.


Lectiones Veteris Testamenti in relatione cum singulis pericopis evangelicis selectae sunt, ad vitandam nimiam diversitatem inter lectiones singularum Missarum ac praesertim ad manifestandam unitatem utriusque Testamenti. Relatio autem inter lectiones eiusdem Missae ostenditur per accuratam selectionem titulorum qui singulis lectionibus praeponuntur. (OLM, caput II.V.2.16).

OLM thus seeks to avoid too great a diversity between the readings and seeks to show the unity of both Testaments. It argues that the relation between the readings appears through the accurate selection of the titles which have been set forth for each of the readings. But where and what are these titles? The claims made in the Praenotanda of OLM are not supported by the OLM-based lectionaries. Do these titles, to which the forward refers, emerge out of the texts themselves or are they imposed upon the texts? The Sundays in Ordinary Time, for instance, sometimes reveal a kind of semi-continuous programme through the Old Testament: readings from Genesis are followed by readings from Exodus in year A, from the ninth Sunday through to the twenty-sixth Sunday; in year B, readings from I Samuel are followed by readings from II Samuel and I Kings, from the ninth Sunday through to the twenty-third Sunday: in year C, readings from I Kings are followed by readings from II Kings, from the ninth Sunday through to the eighteenth Sunday, when selections from Jeremiah are then read for the next three Sundays, followed by Ezekiel for the next two Sundays. Insofar as the gospels


and the epistles are also semi-continuous, it is difficult to see how the relation between the readings claimed for by OLM can be satisfactorily realized.

65 BAS, pp. 359-365, Genesis 12: 1-9; 22: 1-18; 25: 19-34; 28: 10-17; 32: 22-32.

66 While there are occasional expurgations of biblical texts in the Prayer Book eucharistic lectionary as, for example, the omission of four verses from the midst of I Corinthians 10, appointed as the epistle for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, these are modest and few in number, unfortunate as they nonetheless may be. OLM, however, takes far greater liberties with biblical texts. Not only does this result in a kind of reconstruction of the text, but it also involves a considerable amount of jumping around within a given text. Insofar as the BAS does not print out the readings — even though the overall lectionary material runs to some two hundred pages — this feature makes great difficulties for the public reading from the Bible. Consequently, the BAS requires supplementation by lectionary leaflets which must be circulated for use on Sundays, or by the provision of an additional book — a pew lectionary with the texts printed out in full. These have the effect of obscuring what has been left out. A few random examples from the new lectionary illustrate the difficulty and the degree of this jumping about within a given text.

In year A, on the First Sunday of Lent, the Old Testament lesson from Genesis begins at chapter 2, verse 4b, goes to verse 9, omits verses 10-14, recommences at verse 15 continuing through verse 17, omits verses 18-24 and concludes with verses 25 through to chapter 3, verse 7. The second lesson at the Easter Vigil service is Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8: 6-18; 9: 8-13. The seventh lesson at the Easter Vigil service is Baruch 3: 9-15 and verse 32 through to 4: 4. The second reading in year A on the seventh Sunday after Easter is I Peter 4:12-14; 5: 6.11; in year B, Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26; and in year C, Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, and verse 20. The gospel appointed in year B for the feast of Pentecost is John 15:26-27 and 16:4b-15. In year C, the Old Testament lesson for the Third Sunday after Epiphany begins with chapter 8 of the book of Nehemiah, verses 1-4a, verses 5-6, and verses 9-10. In year B, on the nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 19), the Old Testament lesson begins with verse 1 of the 18th chapter of the second book of Samuel, omits verses 2-4, reads verse 5, omits verses 6-8, and concludes with verses 9-15. The year B gospel for the twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 22) consists of Mark 7:1-8,14-15, and 21-23. The epistle appointed for year B for the twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 24) is the second chapter of the letter of James, verses 1-5, 8-10, and verses 14-17; the Old Testament lesson in year C (Proper 24) is Hosea 4:1-3, 5:15-6:6. The second reading for the feast of St. Stephen begins with chapter 6 of the book of Acts, verses 8 to 7:2a, and then leaps to verse 51c through to verse 60. What exactly verse 51c refers to is puzzling. Beyond the actual omissions of verses, the choice for the beginning and/or ending of pericopes in some instances is also curious. The commentators on the new common lectionary understand the influence of modern biblical criticism in the selection and omission of verses and the rationale for the beginning and ending of pericopes but, on occasion, they are moved to question its application. For example, the first lesson for the third Sunday after Easter is not an Old Testament lesson but a passage from the third chapter of Acts, which ends abruptly in the middle of a sentence in verse nineteen. This moves the commentator to observe, “if one wishes to abbreviate the text at all, a more appropriate cutoff point would be either at the end of verse 16 or at the end of verse 21. Preferably, the text should include verses 12-26” (F.B. Cruddock, J.H. Hayes, C.R. Holladay, G.M. Tucker, Preaching the New Common Lectionary, Year B, Lent, Holy Week, Easter (Nashville, 1984), p. 177).

The desire for short pericopes, the concern for expediency, the dominance of biblical criticism with respect to the history, construction, order, and character of scriptural texts, and concessions to contemporary psychological views about sin and judgement and the existential worth of the individual may combine to account for this feature of OLM and OLM-based lectionaries. OLM itself explains the avoidance of the certain passages under the rubric of pastoral reasons: “Ex ratione pastorali vitantur in lectionibus diebus dominicis et Sollemnitatibus textus biblici qui revera difficiliores sunt, sive obiective eo quod altiora problemata


litteraria, critica aut exegetica movent, sive etiam, quadamtenus saltem, eo quod a fidelibus difficilius intellegi possunt.” OLM, I.VI.7c.

67 Ordinarys Time comprises the Sundays after Epiphany and before Lent, and the Sundays after Pentecost and before Advent. In year A, the year of Matthew, the programme of semi-continuous reading begins with Matthew 4: 12-23 and proceeds by way of selected short pericopes from most, but not all of the chapters of Matthew’s gospel, concluding with Matthew 25: 31-46. Overall in the three-year cycle for all the Sundays of the year, excluding saints’ days, and according to the programme of both semi-continuous and thematic reading, three entire chapters of St. Matthew’s gospel are not read at all — chapters 8, 12, and 19. The brevity of the pericopes, for the most part, means considerable omissions from each chapter.

In year B, the year of Mark, the programme of semi-continuous reading begins with Mark 1: 14.20 and proceeds similarly by way of selected pericopes as far as Mark 13: 24.32. Overall, in the course of the three-year cycle, with the exception of the long reading option of the Marcan Passion (Mark 14, 15) on Palm Sunday in year B, only chapter 1 of Mark’s gospel is read in its entirety. As with Matthew’s gospel, the shortened pericopes result in considerable omissions.

In year C, the year of Luke, the programme of semi-continuous reading begins with Luke 4:14-21 and proceeds In like fashion as Matthew and Mark as far as Luke 21: 5-19. As with the other gospels, sizeable omissions occur in almost every chapter.

Selected passages from John 6 make an appearance in the midst of year B. This marks the only semi-continuous course of John in ordinary time. The more extensive use of John in the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Eastertide nonetheless results in considerable omissions over the three-year cycle, both by way of shortened pericopes and by means of the exclusion of chapters; for instance, chapters 5, 7 and 8 (though John 7: 37.39 appears as a Pentecost option in year A — BAS, p. 345.)

The simple exclusion of whole chapters and the sizeable omission of verses by means of abbreviated pericopes considerably vitiates the claim that a greater quantity of scripture is being presented. No doubt over three years with three lessons more scripture is offered at the eucharist than what the one-year doctrinally structured Prayer Book eucharistic lectionary presents, but in general the revisers have not taken full advantage of a three-year cycle, especially for the reading of the Old Testament and the gospel. The result is a less coherent and less comprehensive presentation of saving doctrine. The more quantitatively may be less substantially.

68 BAS, pp. 370-376.

69 See Raymond Brown’s summary of scholarly opinions on this matter in his book The Gospel According to John, I-XII, Anchor Bible series (New York, 1966), Vol. 1, lntroduction. p. xxvi and p. 235.

70 cf. Brown, pp. 236ff., and:

In anno B inseruntur, post dominicam XVI, quinque lectiones ex capitulo 6 loannis (“serrno de pane vitae”); haec insertio fit modo connaturali, quia multiplicatio panum ex Evangelio loannis locum sumit eiusdem narrationis in Marco. ( OLM II.V.2.16)

See also Preaching the New Common Lectionary, Year B, After Pentecost, p. 109.

71 Preaching the New Common Lectionary, Year B, After Pentecost, p. 109.

72 BAS, p. 339. This obtains as well for the seventh Sunday after Easter: year A, John 17: 1-11; year B, John 17: 16-19; year C, John 17: 20-26. (BAS, p. 344)

73 BAS, p. 298 and p. 300.

74 BAS, pp. 301-3W.

75 Cdn. BCP, 1962, pp. xxvi-xxvii, and pp. 150-181. While many may applaud the provision of an Easter Vigil service in the proposed book, it is instructive to note that, for the most part, the Old Testament prophecies read at the Vigil, especially those appointed in the older missals, are comprehended in the Sunday office and/or daily office readings throughout


pre-Lent, Lent, and Eastertide in the Prayer Book. 1 am grateful to the Rev. Prof. W.J. Hankey for these observations; Easter Retreat 1985, “Risen with Christ”, held at St. Augustine’s Monastery, Antigonish County, Nova Scotia, April 19-21, l985.

76 Geoffrey G. Willis, “The Historical Background of the English Lectionary of 1955” in The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. IX, 1958, p. 83.

77 See note 66.

78 See notes 41 and 90.

79 BAS, p. 188 + p. 233.

80 The First and Second Prayer Books of King Edward VI, Everyman’s Library (London, 1968), pp. 32-211.

81 Cdn. BCP, 1962, pp. L-Liv.

82 1 am indebted to the Rev. Roger Beckwith for kindly providing me with this information.

83 Preaching the New Common Lectionary, Year B, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, p. 24.

84> Preaching the New Common Lectionary, Year B, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, p. 24.

85 Preaching the New Common Lectionionary, Year B, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, pp. 34, 46, and 56.

86 Preaching the New Common Lectionary, Year B, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, p. 56.

87 Preaching the New Common Lectionary, Year B, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, p. 34.

88 Preaching the New Common Lectionary, Year B, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, p. 46.

89 Preaching the New Common Lectionary, Year B, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, p. 60.

90 The assimilation of both scripture and even Christ himself to the Church, comparable to the most extreme view of the authority of the Roman magisterium, may be seen in A.H. Couratin’s article “Liturgy” inHistorical Theology, The Pelican Guide to Modern Theology, Vol. 2 (England: Penguin Books, 1969), pp. 131-140. Similarly, this position appears in the work of Karl Rahner where it has been aptly described as “a church-centred Marxism”, by J.A. Doull, “Augustinian Trinitarianism and Existential Theology” in Dionysius III, 1979, pp. 111-112, note 1. Significantly, such an assimilation is accomplished by a combination of biblical criticism and contemporary liturgical reform. The Introduction to the BAS reveals that this assumption underlies their enterprise as well.'(BAS, pp. 9-10)

91 Adddleshaw, The High Church Tradition, pp. 20-69 and pp. 84-96.

Part III

92 Hooker, Works, I, p. 126.

93 Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, trans. John Ciardi (New York, 1961), p. 388.

94 Hooker, Works, III, p. 485.


And being itself the Instrument which God hath purposely framed, thereby to work the knowledge of salvation in the hearts of men, what cause is there wherefore it should not of itself be acknowledged a most apt and a likely mean to leave an Apprehension of things divine in our understanding, and in the mind an Assent thereunto? (Hooker, Works, 11, p. 85.)

96 The First Book of Homilies, 1562 (London: SPCK, 1952), p. 1.

97 The First Book of Homilies, p. 1.

98 The First Book of Homilies, p. 3.

99 The First Book of Homilies, p. 3.


God, who knoweth and discloseth best the rich treasures of his own wisdom, hath by delivering his word made choice of the Scriptures as the most effectual means whereby those treasures might be imparted unto the world, it followeth that to man’s understanding the Scripture must needs be even of itself intended as a full and perfect discovery, sufficient to imprint in us the lively character of all things necessarily required for the attainment of eternal life. (Hooker, Works, 11, p. 85.)


101 The First Book of Homilies, p. 3.

102 The First Book of Homilles, p. 4.

103 The First Book of Homilies, p. 4.

104 cf. Geoffrey Willis, “The Historical Background”, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, pp. 73-86; K.D. MacKenzie, “Collects, Epistles and Gospels” In Liturgy and Worship, ed. W.K. Lowther Clarke (London, 1932), pp. 378-382; ahd C.W. Dugmore, The Influence of the Synagogue upon the Divine Office (London, 1944), especially p. 13 and p. 42.

105 cf. Paul F. Bradshaw, Daily Prayer In the Early Church. (London: Alcuin Club, SPCK 1981), pp. 1-71.

106 F. Procter and W.H. Frere, A New History of the Book of Common Prayer (New York, 1901), pp. 312-313.

107 The Prayer Book Dictionary, ed. G. Harford, M. Stevenson and J.W. Tyrer (The Waverley Book Co., Ltd., 1912), “The Lectionary”, pp. 430ff.

108 W.K. Lowther Clarke, “The Lectionary” in Liturgy and Worship, ed. W.K. Lowther Clarke (London, 1932), p. 296.

109 Clarke, “The Lectionary”, Liturgy and Worship, p. 296; Procter and Frere, p. 320.

110 The Prayer Book Dictionary, “The Lectionary”, p. 430; Clarke, p. 296.

111 Procter and Frere, p. 312 and p. 320; The Prayer Book Dictionary, “The Lectionary”, p. 431.

112 The Prayer Book Dictionary, “The Lectionary”, p. 431.

113 Procter and Frere, p. 320; Willis, p. 73.

114 The Prayer Book Dictionary, “The Lectionary”, p. 431.

115 Hubert Jedin, A History of the Council of Trent, trans. Dom Ernest Graf, OSB (Edinburgh, 1961), Vol. 11, p. 69.

116 Cdn. BCP, 1962, Preface, p. 715.

117 Cdn. BCP, 1962, Preface, P. 715.

118 Cdn. BCP, 1962, “The Articles of Religion”, art. VI, p. 700.

119 Willis, p. 73.

120 Willis, p. 73.

121 Willis, p. 75.

122 Anthony Sparrow, A Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England (London, 1672), p. 40.

123 Willis, p. 75.

124 Willis, p. 74; Clarke, p. 297.

125 Clarke, P. 297.

126 Clarke, p. 298.

127 See.pp. 46-50.

128 The Prayer Book Dictionary, “The Lectionary”, p. 432.

129 The Prayer Book Dictionary, “The Lectionary”, p. 432.

130 W.J. Armitage, The Story of the Canadian Revision of the Prayer Book (Toronto, 1922), pp. 1-6. The copy which I possess is that given by Armitage to the Venerable Frederick Williams Vroom, “in grateful remembrance of valuable help, especially In regard to ‘The Appendix’.”

131 Armitage, The Story of the Canadian Revision, p. 7.

132 Armitage, p. 11.

133 Armitage, p. 7.

134 Armitage, pp. 31-43.

135 Armitage, pp. 61-63. The maritime contingent Included Dean Crawford of Halifax, Canon Simpson of Charlottetown, and the Hon. Mr. Justice Fitzgerald of Charlottetown, who was said to have held strong views in favour of increasing the appointment of lections from the Old Testament prophetical writings.


136 Armitage, p. 61.

137 Armitage, p. 149.

138 Armitage, p. 149.

139 Armitage, p. 149.

140 Armitage, p. 120, and The General Synod of the Church of England in the Dominion of Canada, Journal of Proceedings, 7th Session, 1915 (Toronto, 1916), p. 132 and p. 354.

141 Clarke, p. 298.

142 General Synod Journal, 8th Session, 1918, pp. 417-418.

143 Armitage, pp. 150-151.

144 Armitage, p. 151.

145 Armitage, p. 151.

146 Armitage, p. 152.

147 Armitage, p. 152.

148 Armitage, p. 152.

149 Armitage, p. 152.

150 Armitage, pp. 150-151.

151 Armitage, p. 153.

152 Armitage, p. 153.

153 Armitage, p. 153.

154 Armitage, p. 154.

155 Armitage, p. 154.

156 Armitage, p. 154.

157 Armitage, p. 154.

158 Armitage, p. 154.

159 The Church of England subsequently revised its 1955 lectionary in 1961; a revision which, naturally enough, owing to the completion of our revision in 1959 and its official sanction in 1962, we did not adopt. It marks the first time in Canada that we have had a different lectionary than what was In use in England.

160 Willis, p. 75.

161 Willis, p. 76.

162 Cdn. BCP, 1962, pp. xxxii-xivi

163 Cdn. BCP, 1962, pp. xxx-xxxviii.

164 Cdn. BCP, 1962, pp. xviii-xx.

165 “The Book of Common Prayer is the most Intelligible and practicable form of worship, that could by the wisdom and experience of almost two hundred years be devised. Besides its intrinsic clearness, more books have been written all along in the explanation as well as defence of it, than are known to have been upon any Liturgy in the world.” (Thomas Bisse, Decency and Order In Publick Worship Recommended In Three Discourses Preached In the Cathedral Church of Hereford (London, 1723), Sermon ill, p. 117.)

An eighteenth century Christian layman writes:

Of all the Forms of Prayer that have ever been composed for the Use of Christians, our admirable Liturgy has, from it’s first Appearance to this Day, deservedly held the first Rank; and been most highly esteemed and applauded by the best Judges, and wisest Members, not only of our own, but of many other Protestant Churches. For, whether it be considered barely as a Form of rational Devotion, or as a Treasure of sound Doctrine, and an Incentive to the Practice of every Christian Virtue; whether we attend to the Matter it contains, or to the Language in which it is expressed; it’s Excellency will appear in every Point of View distinctly, and It must be allowed, upon the Whole, to be a most useful, pious and masterly Composition.


(Peter Waldo, A Commentary, Practical and Explanatory, p. ix.)

166 Thomas Comber, A Companion to the Temple and Closet: or a help to Publick and Private Devotion, In an Essay upon the daily offices of the Church (London, 1672), pp. 209-213.

167 Bisse goes on to observe: “The pretended want of inward Spirit or outward decency in it can arise only from the indevotion and misbehaviour of us the users, or rather abusers of it.” (Decency and Order, Sermon III, p. 117.)

168 Bisse, The Beauty of Holiness, Sermon IV, pp. 134-135; and Bishop John Cosin observes:

The Church hath not appointed these following gospels and epistles, but upon special relation to the time wherein they read. And it is admirable to see with what order and wisdom all things are disposed and brought in tempore suo, that they might be the more kindly for the putting us in mind of what we are about, or what we have to do. (Works, ed. J. Henry and J. Parker (Oxford, 1855), Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology, Vol. V, “Notes and Collections on the Book of Common Prayer”, p. 69.

Addleshaw reports William Beveridge’s view of the overall unity and order of Prayer Book services as a whole, and observes in particular that the “daily services and the Eucharist too are related to each other through the lectionary and the collects, epistles, and gospels. The full meaning of the structure is not apparent until the Prayer Book is viewed over the whole length of the Church’s year” (Addleshaw, p. 85).

169 Quoted in Mant, The Book of Common Prayer, p. 93.

170 Sparrow, A Rationale, pp. 92-94.

171 Sparrow, p. 94.

172 Bisse, The Beauty of Holiness, p. 134.

173 Quoted in Mant, p. 93.

174 Cosin, V, p. 69.

175 Sparrow, pp. 182-183.

176 Cosin, V, pp. 69-70.

177 John Henry Blunt, The Annotated Book of Common Prayer (London, 1876), p. 116.

178 Bishop Overall, as quoted in Mant, p. 94.

179 Bisse, The Beauty of Holiness, p. 134. A twentieth century German Benedictine commentary also understands this season to have a similar double character or twofold division:

Sie gliedert sich aber deutlich in zwei Abschnitte. Dererste reicht bis zum 18. Sonntag nach Pfingsten und hält sich an das Ostergeheimnis; der zweite Abschnitt ist ziemlich stark eschatologisch, d.h. endzeitlich, gereichtet und schaut vorwrts, der Zukunft, der Wiederkunft Christi, entgegen. (Anselm Schott, OSB, Das Völistiindige Römische Messbuch (Frelburg, 1961), p. 594.

180 Sparrow, pp. 183-184.

181 Sparrow, p. 184.

182 Sparrow, p. 184.

183 Sparrow, p. 184.

184 Sparrow, p. 184. Sparrow goes on to speak not only of the antiquity of the eucharistic lectionary but also of its doctrinal appropriateness and coherence. The comprehensiveness of the church’s use of scripture is once again suggested by the inter-relation of the offices and the eucharist.

True it is, that in ancient Rituals, and particularly in S. Hieromes Comes (or Lectionarius) where we find this same order of Epistles and Gospels (see Pamelii Liturg. Eccles. Lat. T.2.) there are some other besides these which our Church useth, as for Wednesdays, Fridaies and other special times and Solemnities. But


those for Sundaies and other Holy-daies, which are retained by our Church, are so well chosen for the fitness, variety and weightiness of the matter, and out of that Evangelist that delivers it most fully, that the chiefest passages of all the Evangelists are hereby made known and preached to us; and what we meet not with here is abundantly supplied by the daily second Lessons. And the like also may be said concerning the Epistles. (Sparrow, ‘P. 185).

Sparrow is very well acquainted with the historical apparatus about the development of the lectionary for the Sundays between Pentecost and Advent, particularly with respect to the order of the readings from St. Paul’s epistles and the accommodations made for Dominicae Vacantes, pp. 185-195. See Appendix.

185 Sparrow, p. 185.

186 Sparrow, p. 183.

187 The First Book of Homilies, p. 3; see p. 21.

188 Cdn. BCP, 1962, Preface, p. 715. Consequently, the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book, for instance, has made some changes to the eucharistic lectionary, but within the framework of the common prayer tradition. While they are mostly minor changes, concerning at which verse in a chapter the reading begins or ends, some few are more considerable, involving the appointment of new lessons, epistles, or gospels. A new lesson for the Circumcision, Isaiah 9:2, was appointed. An epistle, James 4:6, was appointed to replace Joel 2:12 as the lesson on Ash Wednesday; Joel 2: 12 appears as the lesson used at the Penitential Service provided for Ash Wednesday in the 1962 Canadian BCP. In two instances gospel readings from Matthew are replaced by their Marcan counterpart. This occurs on the Fourth Sunday in Epiphany — with the consequence of the omission of the Gergasene Exorcism and the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity. On the Fifth Sunday in Lent the 1962 Canadian BCP appoints Matthew 20: 20, in place of John 8: 46; on the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, Luke 6: 27 replaces Matthew 5: 20. Galatians 5:16 is read as the epistle, in place of Galatians 3: 16, for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, while Galatians 5: 25 is read instead of Galatians 5:16 for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity. The gospel for the Sunday Next Before Advent was changed from John 6: 5 to John 1: 35. It is interesting to note that such a change allows the propers of this Sunday to concur with the contemporary fashion for the observance of the Feast of Christ the King on this day, at the same time as preserving its more fundamental character of summing up the season of Trinity and inaugurating the season of Advent. None of these changes result in a lack of relation or loss of coherence between the epistle and the gospel. These changes may well be accounted for by the desire to make the connection more explicit within the doctrinal structure of the year.

189 Cdn. BCP, 1962, p. viii.

190 Hooker, Works, 1, p. 126; and see p. 20. Thomas Bisse advises,

What we thus ignorantly practice, let us know better why we practice. Let us learn the reason, sense and propriety of all things pertaining to this our daily offering. And if we know it, we must esteem it; and if we esteem it, we shall offer it up with affection; which will necessarily create devotion in the soul and decency in the body, the proper and full sacrifice of the whole man. (Bisse, Decency and Order, Sermon III, p. 118.) 19, Sparrow, p. 95.

Notes to the Appendix

1 K.D. MacKenzie, “Collects, Epistles and Gospels” in Liturgy and Worship, ed. W.K. Lowther Clarke (London, 1932), pp. 381-409.

2 Peter G. Cobb, “The Liturgy of the Word in the Early Church” in The Study of the Liturgy, ed. Jones, Wainwright and Yarnold (Oxford, 1978), p. 186.

3 J.A. Lamb, “The Place of the Bible in the Liturgy” in The Cambridge History of the Bible, Vol. 1, ed. P.R. Ackroyd and C.F. Evans (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 563-586.


Also, S.J.P. van Dijk, “The Bible in Liturgical Use” in The Cambridge History of the Bible, Vol. 2, ed. G.W.J. Lampe (Cambridge, 1969), pp. 220-251; and Joseph A. Jungmann, S.J., The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Developments, Vol. 1 (New York, 1951), pp. 391-421.

4 Cobb, “The Liturgy”, The Study of the Liturgy, p. 186.

5 Lamb, “The Place of the Bible”, The Cambridge History, pp. 571-573.

6 Lamb, “The Place of the Bible”, The Cambridge History, pp. 571-573.

7 Lamb, pp. 571-573; van Dijk, “The Bible”, The Cambridge History, pp. 225-227; Jungmann, The Mass, p. 398.

8 Lamb, pp. 571-573.

9 Lamb, p. 573; van Dijk, p. 226; Jungmann, p. 402.

10 van Dijk, p. 226.

11 Jungmann, p. 397, n. 20.

12 See Part III, pp. 47-49; Part I, notes 40, 42, 43; Part II, n. 62.

13 Lamb, p. 572; van Dijk, p. 226.

14 Jungmann, p. 402.

15 Jungmann, p. 402.

16 Jungmann, p. 403.

17 Jungmann, p. 397, n. 20.

18 van Dijk, p. 226, n. 3 and 2.

19 Anselm Schott, OSB, Das Vollständige Römische Messbuch (Freiburg, 1961), P. xxiv.

20 Schott, p. xxv.

21 Schott, p. 146.

22 A. Vogel, “Der Einfluss von Heiligenfesten auf die Perikopenwahl an den Sonntagen nach Pfingsten” In Zeitschrift für Katholische Theologie, LXIX, 1947, pp. 100-118.

23 MacKenzie, “Collects”, Liturgy.and Worship, pp. 390-402.

24 Abbot Guéranger, OSB, and Br. L.F., OSB, The Liturgical Year, 1879, trans. Dom Laurence Shepherd, OSB, (Marion House, Powers Lake, North Dakota, 1983), Vol. XI, “Time after Pentecost, Book II”, p. 2.

25 Guéranger, p. 3.

26 Schott, p. 595.

27 Schott, p. 595.

28 Guéranger, p. 3.

29 John Henry Blunt, The Annotated Book of Common Prayer (London, 1876), pp. 68-144.

30 F. Procter and W.H. Frere, A New History of the Book of Common Prayer (New York, 1901), p. 550.

31 Lamb, pp. 571-573; van Dijk, pp. 225-227; Jungmann, pp. 391-421.

32 MacKenzie, pp. 381-409.

33 Blunt, The Annotated, p. 116.

34 Procter and Frere, A New History , p. 550.

35 Guéranger, P. 116.

36 MacKenzie, p. 383 and p. 398.

37 MacKenzie, p. 398.

38 Guéranger, p. 116.

39 MacKenzie, p. 398.

40 Guéranger, p. 116.

41 Guéranger, p. 116, and MacKenzie, p. 398.

42 Guéranger, Vol. X, p. 91 ff., and MacKenzie, p. 398.

43 Guéranger, Vol. X, p. 93.

44 Guéranger, Vol. X, p. 93.



Peter W. Harris

Thank you very much, Father Curry.

Fr. Curry has given us a very thorough treatment of this subject, and I am in substantial agreement with him in the points which he has made. I would like to draw attention to what I see as the main points in Fr. Curry’s presentation.

In his introduction, he told us that the way Scripture is read is expressive of the Church’s teaching or doctrine about Scripture. How one reads the Scriptures suggests what one thinks about the church, the Christian life, etc. Therefore, it is not a matter of Indifference how the Scriptures are read.

In Part I, Fr. Curry outlined the arguments that are advanced in favour of the new lectionary, by critically examining the 1980 Canadian orange booklet and the Preface to the Lectionary in the 1983 draft of the Book of Alternate Services. They urge it

  • (a) for ecumenical reasons
  • (b) the supposed limitations of the Prayer Book lectionary.

Father Curry has dealt with and exposed these arguments very well and entertainingly. Both of these arguments assume the loss of common prayer. (the new lectionary, based on Ordo Lectio Missae does not emerge out of a common prayer tradition).

Part II of Fr. Curry’s paper drew our attention to the essential principles underlying the new lectionary. This section of Fr. Curry’s paper, though brief, was very important. The principles of modern Biblical criticism provide the logic for changing the lectionary. Modern Biblical criticism becomes the basis for how one reads Scripture. What results is a divorce between Scripture and Doctrine — a weakening of the logic of the Church Year — an unclear relationship of the readings to one another and to the Church Year.

The absence of a Sunday Office Lectionary in the new lectionary would seem to be a significant weakness.

Perhaps Fr. Curry or others here at this conference could elaborate on how the principles of modern Biblical criticism underlie the new lectionary, and explain more fully what the dangers are.

The Third Part of Fr. Curry’s paper gave us a very thorough treatment of the lectionary as we now have it in the Book of Common Prayer — an analysis of the underlying principles on which it is based, and a detailed presentation of the history of how it developed to the present form that we have in our Canadian Book of Common prayer.

Fr. Curry has shown that the Prayer Book lectionary functions within the Prayer Book’s systematic and coherent program of sanctification, which is firmly built upon the principle of justification. Through Scripture, we learn that our justification is not in us but in Christ.

I want to draw attention to Fr. Curry’s point about Scripture as a doctrinal instrument of salvation. The lectionary is the means by which the purpose of scripture as a doctrinal instrument of salvation may be realized within the Prayer Book program of sanctification. The lectionary orders the reading of scripture according to the pattern of doctrine.

Fr. Curry has given us a wealth of detailed historical information about the development of the Prayer Book lectionary. No doubt many of us will wish to re-read and study the details of this section of his paper, when it appears in print.

Fr. Curry’s thesis is as follows. He has persuasively made the point that for the Common Prayer tradition, the Daily Office Lectionary, Sunday Office Lectionary, and Eucharistic Lectionary form a comprehensive whole with each part dependent on and informing the other. The doctrinal foundation of the Lectionary appears most explicitly in the Eucharistic Lectionary. The Eucharistic Lectionary is a thing of remarkable antiquity, rooted in the Patristic period. Indeed, it is an integral part of the whole western liturgical tradition. Are we to cast it aside lightly, in the interests of the supposed ecumenicity of this new lectionary?


The abundance of traditional commentaries on the lectionary by classical Anglican writers shows that they saw an integral relation between the Epistles and Gospels of the Eucharistic Lectionary, manifesting a logical and clear doctrinal pattern of salvation. Fr. Curry has provided us with a number of specific examples and quotations from classical Anglican writers, to make this abundantly clear.

To sum up what has been said, in one or two sentences: Doctrine is the informing principle of the use of scripture in the Daily Office Lectionary, the Sunday Office Lectionary, and the Eucharistic Lectionary. There is a rationale for all three; they are integrally related to each other, and all are informed by the logic of the Christian Year.

Organizing the lectionary around the ecclesiastical year strengthens this unity. But even before this was done, the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century authors understood the essential relationship between the eucharistic lectionary and the Sunday Office Lectionary, and also they understood the Epistles and Gospels as being integrally related to one another. The claim that the Epistles and Gospels do not hold together or relate to one another is very wrong.

One question for discussion is: What should our attitude be, practically, to the new lectionary? Some parishes which are very traditional “Prayer Book” parishes in every other way, are making extensive use of the new lectionary. What should be our attitude to this? I will be interested to hear what is said in our discussion here this morning.

In conclusion, let me once again thank Fr. Curry on behalf of all of us. His paper today has given us much food for thought, and I trust it will now form the basis of some lively discussion and questions.