QUAERITUR: Can the new Lectionary be used with the Extraordinary Form?

From a seminarian (edited):

Fr. Z, thanks for all you do. [My pleasure.] I have learned much from reading your blog over the last few years, and I continue to come here as a seminarian for trusted commentary on different issues.  I have a quick question which arose from a liturgy class:

Does Universae Ecclesiae Article 26 rescind previous allowances for the use of the Novus Ordo lectionary in celebrations of the Missal of 1962? I have not been able to find any clear information on this.
Thanks for your help!

Peace. Know of my prayers for you.

Again, I like to check these things with a reliable canonist. Here is a response I received:

The pertinent paragraph is Universae Ecclesiae article 28, not 26. Article 28 says that Summorum Pontificum derogates from the provisions of law that are incompatible with the rubrical books of 1962. The use of the new lectionary, suggested by Quattuor abhinc annos, would seem to be incompatible with the rubrical books of 1962. Therefore, since SP came into force, this should not be done.

That said, I would have no problem whatsoever with a priest, after having proclaimed the Epistle and Gospel prescribed for the day according to the 1962 Missal, going up to the pulpit and reading the First and Second Reading, plus the Gospel for the day from the Ordinary Form lectionary at the beginning of his homily. [Which will either make Mass longer or force a shorter sermon!] This would seem to me to be a reasonable accomodation for a busy pastor with an ambiformal (did I just coin a new word?) parish who is reluctant to come up with two homilies each weekend. Since in the 1962 rubrics, the sermon need not be tied to the scriptural readings, this would seem to be a reasonable compromise.

Well!   A reasonable compromise.

Whaddy’all think?

Would you like that sort of solution for the sermon?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Centristian says:

    Hmm. Three readings and two different Gospels at Mass. It seems rather unliturgical to my way of thinking. It reminds me of the anti-liturgical liturgical excesses of certain unhinged sedevacantist groups (like the Palmarians, who have to have eight candles instead of 6 and celebrate two consecutive Masses instead of one). I don’t seem to care for the solution at all.

    I think it would be better for the celebrant just to read the appointed “EF” Epistle and Gospel and then give as his sermon the homily he had prepared for his celebration in the Ordinary Form. Since it isn’t supposed that the sermon will tie in with the Gospel in the “EF” in any case, why does the sermon need a point of reference at all? Just modify the sermon to avoid saying things like, “in today’s Gospel we read that…” Instead say simply, “In the Gospel of St. Matthew we read that…”

  2. Choirmaster says:

    I don’t see how the new Lectionary could be used at all for the EF. How would you fit the Prophet/Epistle/Gospel scheme into the Epistle/Gradual/Gospel scheme?

    The more I attend the EF (exclusively) the harder it is for me to stomach the paradigm that Sunday Mass must somehow be equivalent to the Protestant Sunday Service of the Word. The three-year cycle, the three-fold reading from scripture just seems like a little too much focus on proclamation and preaching and not enough on prayer and the Sacrifice. Who needs Lectio Divina when you basically get the whole Bible book-on-tape fashion simply by attending mass consistently over the course of three years?

    That being said, I come from and remain in the Church as it is experienced in America, and, here in America, we tend to adopt many Protestant sensibilities in our Sunday worship (think of the constant hymns and Christmas carols). If it really would make people happier to hear more scripture on Sunday then, by all means, let the priest read scripture during the homily! Indeed, let him read from the new Lectionary if he feels that he will somehow score political points with the dissidents, whiners, protesters, and “spirit of Vatican Two” pew-agitators! Even more if it allows him to save time by recycling the homily prepared for the Normals (my word for those who attend the Novus Ordo). But if that is an allowable option, why not just prepare 52 homilies for the EF, and then read the EF Readings and Homily at the OF, rather than 156?

    I would prefer none of this, though. I think the new calendar, lectionary, and missal should die a cold and forgotten death by the merciless blows of attrition.

    If you’re doing the EF thing, stick with it exclusively, and all the ancillary attitudes and accoutrements it implies.

    If you’re doing the OF thing, stick with that exclusively, and the last one out please turn off the lights.

  3. anilwang says:

    Personally I see advantages in both the old lectionary cycle and the new one and think some sort of integration of both is a good thing. That being said, I think that there are potential problems with forcing the two lectionaries together without thought since there may be repetitions and other issues such as the difficulty of coming up with a sermon that is in any way relevant to all the themes raised by read scripture. I guess this is something that needs to be tried out to see how well it works.

    If the issue is the business of the priest, then the Catholic Church has 2000 years of homilies in its archives. Virtually every part of the scripture has been commented on several times and with the internet, it’s easy to obtain the homilies of St. Basil, St. Chrysostom, and St. Augustine, among others. While the language is a and thought process of the Church Fathers can be trying on modern minds, they offer a great deal of insight that that is virtually absent in the homilies of many modern priests. So even if the priest is not busy, occasionally borrowing from the Church Fathers is not a bad idea.

  4. Rellis says:

    Any priest who tries to do this would find himself the target of angry and ungrateful TLMers. That’s just the way some of them are. They have it in their heads how things are supposed to go, and if it deviates from their norm, they flip out.

    This is definitely in that category. I’ve had people complain to me that a priest distributed communion starting at the wrong end of the rail. I’ve had people complain to me about my parish priest doing the readings in the vernacular at Low Mass, UE’s allowance of it notwithstanding. Note that these same people are perfectly-fine with the pre-communion Confiteor, which doesn’t exist in the 1962 MR. They aren’t interested in THE rubrics so much as THEIR rubrics.

    The availability of a TLM at all and the gratitude that should evoke never crosses their minds. This would not end well, and it’s a shame.

  5. trad catholic mom says:

    Quote: “I think it would be better for the celebrant just to read the appointed “EF” Epistle and Gospel and then give as his sermon the homily he had prepared for his celebration in the Ordinary Form.”

    I’ve seen this done repeatedly at diocesan TLMs. Well not the additional readings, but the use of the homily written for the OF calendar at EF masses in parishes that have both. Personally I’m not thrilled with it. The same way I am not thrilled with the NAB being used for the English readings at the EF. In fact those are just a couple of the many reasons that I miss having a TLM only parish close by.

  6. q7swallows says:

    From the laymen’s point of view (a very thankful EF convert from the OF), my initial thought is that this compromise would have the same effect of steering a speedboat on top of train tracks:  jarring and rather destructive of both — for everyone, no matter what their formal preference.

    The point is:  is God better served (are the faithful being brought to a greater depth of love of Him and each other) by such an arrangement or not?  If you can wrangle it, more power to you!  

  7. ppb says:

    So is the canonist suggesting that the *liturgical* proclamation of the scripture readings as part of the EF Mass itself must be the readings in the 1962 missal (in either Latin or the vernacular according to the regulations of UE), but when it comes time for the sermon the celebrant can read and preach on the OF readings because in the EF the celebrant can essentially preach on whatever he wants during the sermon? That may be true – and I am aware of a handful of EF Mass sites where this is done – but on a pastoral level it seems to me to be schizophrenic and contrary to the intention of SP and UE, which is to preserve the traditional Mass for those who want it.

    I sympathize with the point about uncharitable TLMers who fuss about nonessentials, but when we’re talking about the scripture readings, I think we’re getting into something pretty important. Why offer the EF and then completely ignore the scripture readings contained in that missal?

  8. disco says:

    I would hate that. He might as well read the dear Abby from the Sunday paper before the sermon. That would be something else that has nothing to do with the mass being celebrated.

    I’ve personally heard sermons which were about gospels from the ordinary form (the priest was kind enough to say that we would hear that gospel several weeks later) but EF attendees are smart enough to listen to a sermon not on the days gospel and derive benefit. Proclaiming the readings from a different mass would just be a waste of everyone’s time at best and offensive to the traditionalist’s sensibilities at worst.

  9. Tim Ferguson says:

    We have to remember that it has only been since the Council that there was any semblance of an obligation for the priest to preach on the readings of the Mass. Frequently – more often than not, I suspect – the sermon had “nothing to do with the Mass being celebrated.”

    I recall the late, lamented Msgr. Schuler saying that, in one of his early years as a priest, the Archbishop of St. Paul required the priests to preach each Sunday on a successive point of the Creed. He said, with the curl of a smile starting, that his biggest challenge was coming up with 10 minutes of preaching on “forever and forever. Amen.”

  10. paterscotus says:

    I agree with Centristian, et al. Having celebrated the EF for a (grateful) minority of parishioners at my former parish, my experience is that: (1) it’s better to proclaim the EF readings in the vernacular from the pulpit as (a) it ties into the actual Mass that is being celebrated, and (b) there will be present those of the traditional ilk who would find any admixture of the readings (as suggested) to be jarring; but, that being said, (2) it is entirely reasonable to preach *essentially* the same homily as was prepared for the other (OF) Masses of the day (with suitable transitions from the EF Mass’s theme), as (a) pre-1962 guidelines for sermons don’t require a strict nexus to the readings, and (b) it’s really asking too much for the typical parish priest to prepare two distinct homilies per Sunday. Just my opinion, from limited experience.

  11. Supertradmum says:

    I do not see the point of this. Those who go to the EF and are not familiar with the older calendar of feasts, or Epistle and Gospel, on the whole fall into the calendar at least after a few visits. And, those who regularly go would find it unnecessary. It seems an interruption of a Mass to me and very odd.

  12. aladextra says:

    The worst is when the bishop commands that a long message be played in the place of the sermon because of some pressing issue, and it is all based on the N.O. readings, with lines like “today, we just heard in the Gospel of John that…” Uh, no we didn’t. Really makes you feel like chopped liver.

  13. pseudomodo says:


    In general, church law stipulates that a HOMILY be given at mass. So if you’re giving a SERMON at any point you must then give a HOMILY!

    QUAERITUR: if a layperson if forbidden to give a homily at mass could they give a sermon (which is technically different)?

    I think if I was ever offered a chance to stand in the pulpit at mass, I would definately give a sermon and not a homily but the topic would be on the importance of giving a homily at mass. Then I would introduce the Priest and bid him to give a homily.

  14. cpaulitz says:

    So, what exactly would reading two sets of vernacular Epistles and Gospels accomplish besides Mass confusion? I’m just not seeing any possible upside.

  15. asperges says:

    Absolutely not. The late Cardinal Hume tried to impose new rite readings on the EF Masses he begrudgingly allowed in Westminster some years ago. The readings of the OF and EF other than for common feasts usually do not match the proper of the day and are frequently entirely different.

    It is reasonable to refer to the OF rite and relevant readings where they overlap or have a common theme and perhaps recommend they are read at home after Mass, but all of them together? No thank you.

  16. aspiringpoet says:

    The priest (a good, orthodox priest) who says the *only* EF Mass where I live actually does this – the EF readings in Latin, then the OF readings in English right before his homily. It does create a certain dissonance. On the other hand, so far it hasn’t summoned liturgical puppets from the sky or any other disasters. Since I attend OF Masses during the week, it gives me some continuity with those readings, but I do understand that those who attend the EF strictly would feel differently.

  17. Peter in Canberra says:

    I saw this done many years ago (c1993/4) by an ‘ambiformal’ priest and I think it was fine.
    He was administrator of the local Cathedral but also on occasion offered the TLM. He would often say 2-3 Masses at the Cathedral on the weekend. He would invariably arrive in his car in alb, having driven directly from Mass at the Cathedral. He would recite the readings (I forget whether all or just the Gospel from the 1970 Missal) and then give the same sermon he had prepared for use in the Cathedral. It was all done politely and he apologised that he did not have time to prepare a parallel sermon.

    In this context I think it is OK. However I have seen a separate incident where a bishop came to confer confirmations at the TLM (not celebrating) and before preaching expressed his surprise and frustration that the readings were different. The dynamic was completely different – bitter I would say. (Why he didn’t know the readings would be different is a another story).

    My reservation is the potential for the intrustion of of the new lectionary via the sermon (and quasi-suppresion of the EF readings) on a regular basis as a matter of [hostile] policy.

  18. Peter in Canberra says:

    re aladextra’s point on the messages of Bishops.

    Well I have a counter point and I feel it very strongly. In my experience even regular (ie recognised by the diocese not SSPX or independent) EF communities have a great tendancy to divorce themselves from the rest of the Church, including it seems not reading pastoral letters (this may be because the diocese doesn’t copy these non-territorial chaplains on the mail-out but …)

    This creates a de facto situation of disunity with the diocese and I would posit is unjust to the EF adherents because they do not have ready access to the messages of the diocese to which they belong, especially if they come from the Bishop. At the very worst you have EF attendees who view themselves inplicitly as the real Catholics while all the OF attendees (ie the overwhelming majority of practising Roman Catholics) as the great unwashed.

    And as aladextra notes, these messages are sometimes about contemporary issues. The EF / TLM should not be a fly in amber. It subsists in the here and now. With the bishops of the here and now. Pretending that it doesn’t doesn’t serve anyone well. And it doesn’t create an atmosphere that is conducive to OF worshippers exploring the EF actually hanging around. This too I have seen – a stream of one or two time attendees who don’t stay. One can only speculate as to the reasons.

  19. Peter in Canberra says:


    This does bring up an important point regarding the OF as well – the stricture to preach on the texts of the Mass. This stricture does not apply to the old Mass. It provides/d the preacher with the ability to preach on important contemporary issues.

    I am not saying this should be the norm but I do think that the OF format has contributed to the banality of homiletics, and the sometimes ridiculous mental gymnastics of preachers to make their sermon, using the readings of the day, relevant to some issue or other. And the gymnastics attempted to make the 3 readings somehow relate to each other (one wonders what the creators of this lectionary were thinking sometimes, perhaps it was just late in the day and they just had to finish – “OK, just shove those 3 together …”)

    It provides an easy out for the pulpit never to be used to teach on fornication, contraception, abortion, homosexuality etc because “they aren’t in the texts for today”.

    On a related point, I yearn for preachers to make use of the rest of the Mass texts, whether in the EF or the OF, at least sometimes.

  20. leonugent2005 says:

    This would be a place where mutual enrichment would be wonderful. While the OF is being transformed to look more like the EF (and it really should be within limits) The EF could adopt the new lectionary. I really believe that the next 3 or 4 popes will unpack for us the richness of those 2 words…Mutual Enrichment!

  21. Random Friar says:

    My preacher’s heart would go on and compare the two sets of readings back and forth, although my pastoral heart would beat my preacher’s heart in for inflicting such a long exercise on the faithful.

  22. jesusthroughmary says:

    Where is actually written that (a) there is a “legal” (for lack of a better word) difference between a “sermon” and a “homily”, or that (b) the homily MUST reflect/analyze/refer to/etc. the readings for the particular Mass at which it is offered? I hear these assertions thrown around as self-evident truths, including in the comments above, but have never seen the sources for such claims.

  23. Peter in Canberra says:

    @ jesusthroughmary – I guess whether or not there is a ‘legal’ directive to preach on the texts of the Mass of the day, the reality is that everyone (ie the preists preaching) seems to presume they must, so there is a de facto rule even if not a de jure one …

  24. levi1991 says:

    ‘I would prefer none of this, though. I think the new calendar, lectionary, and missal should die a cold and forgotten death by the merciless blows of attrition.

    If you’re doing the EF thing, stick with it exclusively, and all the ancillary attitudes and accoutrements it implies.

    If you’re doing the OF thing, stick with that exclusively, and the last one out please turn off the lights.’

    I agree with this completely. How does it benefit the faithful to have a homily or sermon based on a completely different set of readings than those they have in their missals and the 1962 liturgical calendar? They are not going to get the full fruit of the Church’s arrangement of the readings and the mass, completely aside from the fact that every mass is a cohesive whole, all the readings, the antiphons, the prayers, the gradual etc.. are all there for a reason and messing around with the readings destroys this cohesive whole.

    It is true that sometimes in the TLM, the priest or bishop will preach a sermon unrelated to the texts of mass but frankly this has only happened once or twice to me and even then the celebrant will relate it to the texts if only a little.

    To be blunt this is one of many reasons why some people are suspicious of going to masses that are not organised by TLM only groups, because compromises and fiddling with rubrics whether allowed or not is done.

  25. JonPatrick says:

    @leonugent, what you suggest presents many problems. For example, what do you do about feast days that are transferred to Sunday in the OF but kept on their original day in the EF? This week is a good example – in the EF Sunday is the feast of the Holy Family but the OF celebrates Epiphany. So the OF readings would be those for Epiphany not Holy Family. This would only work if you also forced the EF to adopt the new calendar and the moving of feasts to Sundays, which would be a problem for many EF-goers.

  26. tzard says:

    It would also seem that the homily/sermon’s points could be highlighted in snippets from scripture, or recollections “Remember what Our Lord said at the Sermon on the Mount….”. It might not be strictly necessary to recite all 3 OF readings.

    As for me – I’m all in favor of more scripture – as a personal desire. Same with longer masses. I can’t see how any piece of scripture can have “Nothing to do” with the Mass – which has everything to do with everything.

  27. KAS says:

    LIKE, very very much LIKE. One cannot hear too much Scripture and I do not mind a longer Mass. As a college student I attended a small church that had TWO HOUR services on Sunday. It took me more than a year of attendance before I clued in and realized how long our services were but they were worth every minute.

    Mass has a greater eternal meaning and depth and it would not be at all amiss to have double the scripture readings, especially if it helps the Priest put his homily into the scriptural context. Then again, I would love a longer Mass simply because it is more time set aside on Sunday for totally focusing on the Lord.

  28. BillG says:

    Father, while your canonist may have “no problem whatsoever” with injecting the OF readings into the EF Mass at sermon time, I have several. One, the NAB texts are pathetic translations that will sound all the more so in the rich context of the EF. Two, the three-year cycle for Sundays in the OF, while providing more exposure to scripture, also provides a skewed view of scripture. Negative themes on sin and death, Christ’s sometimes angry – forceful – even colorful words, John’s unflattering references to “the Jews” of the day, the humble position of human nature relative to God, all these and more have been either relocated from the Sunday readings (some to weekdays in Lent), seriously de-emphasized, or omitted entirely. Three, I agree with Peter in Canberra – “one wonders what the creators of this lectionary were thinking” in their selections of readings that relate poorly to one another. The poor “fabrication” of the new Lectionary should be left exclusively in the OF. Finally, in contrast to the more-is-better view espoused by some, I believe that old Russian saying – “Repetition is the mother of learning” – is apropos here. Better to learn lessons well, rather than forget more lessons.

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