NLM: Useful study of creation of the Novus Ordo Lectionary

Have you followed the tennis match back and forth that has resulted since Card. Sarah’s suggestion in La Nef that the Extraordinary and the Ordinary Forms of Mass should have a coordinated Lectionary?

Some were cool about that suggestion and others were more enthusiastic.  Those who were enthusiastic tend to argue that more pericopes (selections) of Scripture for Mass, as in the Novus Ordo v. the TLM, is better, mostly because there’s more.  Those who are cool tend to argue that the introduction of more to the TLM isn’t automatically better and would, in fact, be disruptive in a harmful way.

You can follow this debate HERE.

Now I see that at NLM,  Matthew Hazell has started a 3 part series about the creation of the Novus Ordo Lectionary.  He has posted Part 1 and it is not to be missed.

Hazell holds that the integration of the Novus Ordo Lectionary into the older, traditional form of Mass would do irreparable damage to the traditional form.  He is qualified to have a position about this question, inter alia he assembled the useful and instructive:

Index Lectionum: A Comparative Table of Readings for the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite (Lectionary Study Aids) (Volume 1)


Every priest, at least, should have this useful book.   It compares, side by side, the use of Scripture selections in the Novus Ordo and the TLM, going through the Bible in order.  So, if you want to find out on what days a specific verse of Scripture is used in the Novus Ordo and the TLM, this is your book.

Hazell says:

[T]he integration of one lectionary into the other form is simply impossiblewithout irreparable damage is, in my opinion, quite correct. So, if some sort of “convergence” of the two lectionaries is to happen, it cannot be on done on this basis. [1Furthermore, in this author’s opinion, it is an open question as to whether or not the specific, practical reforms mentioned in Sacrosanctum Concilium, such as the readings being intra praestitutum annorum spatium in SC 51 or the abolition of Prime in SC 89, should still be part of any potential future liturgical reform.] A comprehensive examination of their strengths and shortcomings is required—and, for the Ordinary Form lectionary in particular, this will involve a detailed critique of the rationale and work of Group 11 of the Consilium. [There’s the infamous Consilium!  I am reminded of my post on BUGNINICARE!]

However, another important part of this study is the following question: what sort of reform did the Council Fathers and the periti envisage? Looking at the liturgy constitution in itself, it would seem difficult to answer this question. On the one hand, “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing” (SC 23); on the other hand, the stated desire for some sort of multi-year cycle of readings in SC 51 is an innovation without precedent in the liturgical tradition. [Incoherent, no?]

So, in this short series, I hope to provide some of the background material necessary for a deeper examination of this question—not just from the Second Vatican Council itself, but also from the preparatory work done before the Council.

“But Father! But Father!”, some libs sputter, “How dare you post about this?!?  It is clear to everyone who agrees with us that more Scripture is better, especially when all the bits we don’t like are edited out.  All that stuff about sin is such a downer… a pre-Conciliar downer!  You just want to disturb people with these texts from the Council and … and… facts.   Why?  Because YOU HATE VATICAN II!”

Is that so?  Let’s learn what the Council really said, learn with the Council Fathers really initiated, before we come to conclusions.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    I’m amused to see this coming up now, because I’ve just begun to read (for the 3rd time) Bugnini’s book The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975. I’ve failed on two previous attempts to finish the book. Just recently I’ve discovered a book by a Hungarian scholar, Laszlo Dobszay called The Bugnini-Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform (2003) dedicated “Eminentissimo Viro Patri Venerabili et Magistro Josepho S.R.E. Cardinali Ratzinger : Hoc Opusculum Maximae Aestimationis ac Reverentiae signum D.D. Auctor”

  2. mburn16 says:

    “mostly because there’s more”

    That seems rather dismissive. Even accepting that “more” is not inherently better, there is probably a point to be made that you cannot reduce past a certain point without losing more than just volume. I don’t have the specific figures in front of me, but I seem to remember statistics that said the TLM only includes about 1% *!* of the content of the Old Testament, and less than 20% the content of the New Testament. Whereas the new lectionary contains about 40% and 75%, respectively.

    Quantity for quantity’s sake has no merit. But I would have to believe that cutting out 39% of the pre-Christian scripture that Christ himself would have been familiar with, and 60% of the scripture that details his teachings and doings and those of his disciples costs you a lot more than just physical volume.

    There are certain realities that need to be contended with when discussing the relationship between Mass and scripture. One of them is that the Mass is – and is likely to remain, for the long foreseeable future – the primary exposure to scripture for Catholics; and largely the only exposure to *instruction* (particularly from the ordained) on scripture. Cut wisely, and only where necessary.

    [I suggest that you read this before checking back. It’ll be helpful. HERE]

  3. JesusFreak84 says:

    Maybe there’s something to the fact that Eastern Catholic and Orthodox have somehow survived centuries of persecution, at the hands of everything from the Soviets to ISIS, despite “only” having a one-year cycle of readings? Hmmm… I feel like saying more always = better isn’t just a slap in the face to the EF itself, but to our brethren in the Eastern Rites doing exactly the same thing as the EF; it could be yet another instance of implying, “Your Rites are soooooo obviously inferior to ours, since WE have more Scripture!” I experience little whiplash going from the EF to the UGCC parish; the whiplash from the UGCC to the OF is extreme.

  4. Unwilling says:

    Is it possible for “improvements” and “enhancements” to be made to the particular, specific ritual protected by Summorum Pontificum? If so, might such changes render it, even to traditionalists, less acceptable than the NO?

  5. mburn16 says:

    I read your link, Father. And, as I said: cut wisely, and only where necessary. I am more than happy to concede that some of the revisions to the lectionary followed neither principle. I was simply making a defense of the concept of giving Catholics greater exposure to scripture (and doing so in the context of the Mass, where they can receive instruction on such scripture). It was not necessarily a defense of the specific, current form of the OF lectionary. [You may have fallen into the trap of thinking that the only source people have for Scripture is Mass, which many Catholics only hear one day a week. There is also another source for Scripture: the Bible. It’s in all the bookstores and even online!]

    In compiling a revised, common lectionary, I would have no problem starting with the EF lectionary, and then adding to it. It is obviously possible to add without subtracting.

    [It is, therefore, a good thing that you won’t be involved in such a project!]

  6. Philmont237 says:

    I think that adding a pertinent Old Testament reading to the EF would be one way to improve the EF lectionaries without damaging it. However, I think that is all that should be done to it.

  7. Sonofthunder says:

    “Those who were enthusiastic tend to argue that more pericopes (selections) of Scripture for Mass, as in the Novus Ordo v. the TLM, is better, mostly because there’s more.”

    Have you seen much enthusiasm for a more traditional outcome of Cardinal Sarah’s call for a shared lectionary, such as the TLM readings with additional propers for saints canonized since 1962?

  8. Kerry says:

    Most of the introduction to Matthew Hazell’s book, written by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, can be read at Amazon via the ‘Look inside’ feature. Prepare to be astonished at the various verses and scripture omitted entirely.
    And where, in nature, is there a three year cycle? (And no, not cicadas please.)

  9. Dear Philmont237,

    I am one of those who regularly celebrate the EF (Dominican Rite) and am asked by the nuns to preach on Weekdays. I am convinced that provision of coherent sets of readings for the ferials Post Epiphany and Post Pentecost would be a real improvement in the EF lectionary. And would allow incorporation of a larger number of OT readings (as already in EF Lent).

    BUT the one thing that would be a BIG mistake would be to introduce a third reading on Sundays and Feasts. This is one of the worst aspects of the OF Lectionary—it is impossible to do justice to all three readings in short Sunday homily. And how many people can retain that much reading in their heads? I might also add that second huge defect of the OF Lectionary (which is clear to anyone who has preached on it daily) is the incoherence of the lectio continua readings on weekdays.

    More is not always better, but sometimes it might be.

    [There is something to that. There are times when there are, for example, a string of feast days of the same “type” of saint. We can get the same readings several days in a row or in a short span.]

  10. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Before we go adding to the content of Scripture in the EF, perhaps we should take account of how much was cut, to make room for more?

    1) The prayers at the foot of the altar include psalms. These psalms are not recited in the Ordo of Paul VI, to the best of my knowledge.
    2) The Lavabo, which used to be a sizeable portion of one psalm, has been reduced to one verse of a different psalm.
    3) The “Last Gospel”, usually the first part of St. John’s Gospel, is read after every Mass. No portion of St. John’s Gospel is read at the end of Mass.

    I’ll let others chime in with other parts which are in the EF and missing from the OF.
    And this is just for starters.

  11. danielinnola says:

    i hope they leave the EF alone. I love the Sunday Gospels.. unchanged for millenia. Let them go play with the NO. By its very nature it calls for constant change. Let them be happy with that. Skys the limit

  12. donato2 says:

    The Mass is not a Bible study session. The expanded readings in the new Mass are part of what gives it a Protestant feel, at least relative to the traditional Mass.

  13. Matt Robare says:

    Some of the goalds of the “Reform of the Reform” seem to already be contained in the 1965 Missal, according to Msgr Charles Pope

    As far as the Lectionary is concerned, it seems to me (having really only blogs like this excellent one as a source of information) that one of the most valuable things about the traditional texts is their deep connections to the seasons and the cycles of the year. The choice of texts was not made randomly or hastily. Without that mooring in the life of the year, it seems to me that the Mass is unstuck in time, as it were and that should be the starting point for alteration.

  14. acardnal says:

    Traditionally, the holy Mass is not an exegetical event. . . nor a time for scripture study. That can happen at other occassions. The Mass is the renewal of the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary by the alter Christus, the priest. The four ends of the Mass are: Adoration, Atonement, Thanksgiving and Petition.

  15. jaykay says:

    And yet, in today’s N.O. Mass of the 16th Sunday in Ordinary time, the Lectionary has the option of reducing the already short Gospel from St. Matthew to the bare – very bare – minimum. Guess what was used in our Parish Mass? No prizes. And the piece to be optionally left out has a reference to hellfire and gnashing of teeth. Say it ain’t so! Some “banquet of the Word” that is. I do wish the NO would live up to its own principles. Most of us experience it as every bit as rushed as the Low Mass was notoriously supposed to have been, everywhere. Peter Kwasniewski’s latest book is particularly good on this point. Please do buy it.

  16. roseannesullivan says:

    Hope it’s appropriate for me to supplement this discussion with a link to a review I did of Index Lectionum (Index Lectionum: Scripture Usage in Roman Catholic Masses Before and After Vatican II) that was published at Homiletic and Pastoral Review and New Liturgical movement.

    The Index Lectionum is a very useful tool because you can use it to find out what changes were made. What is striking is how many important verses were omitted in the name of raising difficult questions. What struck me more than anything was the omission of verses 27-32 of 1 Corinthians 11, which is highly significant because the verses are important doctrinally. To give one recent example, these verses are an important help in understanding why the Church teaches that divorced and remarried Catholics in an illicit marriage should not receive Communion. (The verses also apply to anyone who is habitually committing the sin of fornication, or cohabiting, supporting abortion, or engaging in any unrepented mortal sin.)

    Someone who has never heard verses 27 and 30 from 1 Corinthians 11 may think the Church’s prohibition of Communion for those who are living in mortal sin is prejudiced meddling and heartless interference, instead of as a lovingly offered protection against the sinner becoming “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord,” to help keep the sinner from sinning even more gravely by receiving a sacrilegious communion, and from becoming like those “who have become weak and sick and some have even died.”

  17. Sonshine135 says:

    When we start talking about liturgy, this is one of those areas where if you have 1,000 people, you will have 1,000 different opinions and very little consensus. There are a lot of folks I have noticed who are skittish about making any changes at all to the 1962 Missal for fear it will be ruined. On the opposite end, I have seen people who are so ingrained into the newer form of the Mass, they don’t want to see any change there either-including some people who were so traumatized by the sudden reforms they don’t want to see any further changes. Then, you have everyone else in the middle.

    As I have stated before, this is going to require a great deal of intellectual honesty. The people who advocated for more scripture in the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council are the same people who removed readings from the Liturgy of the Hours and changed it to a 4 week cycle. So which is it? Also, we must be honest about whether Vatican II brought more people to the pews. It hasn’t. We continue to bleed people and thus souls are lost. So the fact is that we have to be bold and we have to have a clear message based on Tradition and the Deposit of Faith. This requires shepherds who are willing to take risks, but who are also willing to admit that they may not have all the answers and can reach across the ideological spectrum to work with the common goal we all should have in mind- bringing people to Christ with the intention of the saving their soul.

  18. Gilbert Fritz says:

    Peter A. Kwasniewski points out that we could add a lot of scripture to the EF without losing the one year cycle or the emphasis on saints. We could do this, he says, by, among other things, writing proper Masses for each saint, tailoring them to their life, instead of using the generic readings over and over again.

    He does not say this, but I would add that we could put a second, Old Testament reading into the existing Masses, making sure they fit. Some Masses already have a second reading, such as those for some Wednesdays of Lent.

  19. Imrahil says:

    Begging your pardon, but I cannot help it to find it exceedingly strange that this topic is even as much as discussed. (In that form that is.)

    Those who, back in the days, were for banning what is now called the EF altogether, because there is the so much better OF now around, may have had their point. It was not a good point. They were wrong. But in any case, it was at least some sort of point:

    which the idea to keep the EF and fill the OF lectionary into it is not. This is, pardon the bluntness, sheer obvious nonsense of the are-you-kidding-me sort.

  20. Imrahil says:

    Rev’d dear Fr Augustine Thompson O.P.,

    interesting point about the three lessons on the Sunday. Because, to me, who of course has no idea about the matter, this one thing did actually seem defensible to me. It is quite true that it goes with a sermon from 20 minutes upwards and a general Mass length of rather more than one and a half hours to keep up proportions, which might not be what some people are used to (and maybe for just reasons), though.

    As for feriae post Epiphaniam and post Pentecosten, let me disagree with respect: there are so few of them, and even if we do cut some third-class feasts (pruning the calendar was in principle one of the defensible things, though the liturgy reformers overdid it in 1969), still so few of them, that any chance of a sensible weekly rhythm falls away.

    (Per Adventum and tempore Paschali might be a different thing in principle, especially if the much of Paschaltide happens to fall into April. As for Advent, though, I don’t think people will want to miss their votive Masses of the Blessed Virgin in Advent, Rorate, with candlelight and the Annunciation gospel and all.)

  21. Imrahil says:

    As for giving greater variety in the “Saints with texts hitherto from the Commons” section,

    that is in principle an interesting idea, pace those who fear that once even a half-inch of changes is allowed people will simply exchange the EF for the OF lectionary altogether.

    That has in principle been done already: There are Saints with proper Masses, after all, fittingly chosen Gospels (say, in the Mass of St. John Don Bosco), and so on.

    But even here: the Commons have their idea as well. There are not so many widows on the Calendar (St. Monica, St. Elizabeth and so on). The idea to give each of them the Pauline epistle on the widowhood cannot be said not to have charm. There is an increasing number of Church doctors on the Calendar; but this is in idea, used to be, and to a degree remains, a rare designationthat for some few theologically really eminent saints. The idea to give each of them the insta opportune importune from St. Paul’s readings does have its charm. And so on and so on. The Gospel of the Prudent Virgins, in itself “merely” from the Commons for virgins, happens to appear for both St. Cecily and St. Catherine (I’m sure about the former and not entirely sure about the latter) at an appropriate place in the year, so much so that the Lutherans have taken it for their realization of the Last Sunday, and that it has given rise to that beautiful hymn Wake, awake, the tide is thrilling as a fine addition to any collection of Advent songs. And so on and son on.

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  23. Dear Imrahil,

    First, thank you Fr. Z for acknowledging the problems I flagged. I know that you reject “fly in amber” (your words) versions of 1962 and have never questioned it. And thank you for bringing up the problem of the repeated commons. When I preach for a week to the nuns and have three or four Confessors (or Virgins), it starts to sound ridiculous applying the same set of readings to all of them.

    And now to Mr. (Mrs., Ms.?) Imrahil, You might take a look in your EF handmissal and observe the problem of ferials (also in Advent and Eastertime), as well as the repeated common reading.Have you ever preached daily Masses in the EF? Or have you listened to homilies on those readings?

    The Fathers of the Church and medieval preachers all saw the job of the preacher as laying open the meaning and content of the Scriptures. They were wiser than we. I urge you to take a look at their homilies. There is nothing “Protestant” about preaching on the Holy Scriptures and the Mass is the place, in the end, where most Catholics will, in fact, hear it read and exposited.

    We are now reaching the point in this thread where I understand the reasons Dr. Ed Peters does not allow comments. It is good for comment posters (including me) to reread his reasons on a regular basis.

  24. Imrahil says:

    Rec’d dear Fr Augustine Thompson O. P.,

    all I was saying is that having proper Feriae for the seasons after Epiphany and Pentecost brings the problem that any rhythm they could have brings the problem that it is disturbed by all of the saints’ feast (even should the Calendar have been pruned, in a sensible manner).

    On exchanging the Commons for propers this problem does not exist at all. I did, of course, mention the charm of the equal readings for widows and Church doctors. Confessors are, maybe, a different matter.

    I (Mr.) ama layman and so have not preached daily Masses… nor listened to them so very often, because a daily Mass does not usually go with a sermon. Like the third reading on the Sunday, the traditionalist “we never did that kind of thing” has shown great resilience to this particular urging of the liturgy reformers:

    and after all, Mass used to be in the morning and many Masses still are, so the sermon means “get up earlier” or “late to work”.

    But I do guess that if the is a sermon on a saint’s feast, it would mostly be on the life of the Saint in question, with perhaps one or two nods to the readings if they, as it were, come naturally in his flow of speech; and that is it.

    As for the Church fathers, I do not claim to know much at all; but wasn’t it that the “preaching” they mean was more of the “18:30 sermon; afterwards Vespers in front of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction” sort that of the “19:00 Holy Mass (with a homily)” sort?

  25. robtbrown says:

    Augustine Thompson op says,

    And now to Mr. (Mrs., Ms.?) Imrahil, You might take a look in your EF handmissal and observe the problem of ferials (also in Advent and Eastertime), as well as the repeated common reading.Have you ever preached daily Masses in the EF? Or have you listened to homilies on those readings?

    1. During the years when Fontgombault was forced to used the Novus Ordo, the linear readings in the NO were of course also used. One of the American monks, an old friend, told me the NO readings,with no repetition on Ferial Days, made it hard to memorize Scripture.

    2. In the summer when Angelicum classes were no longer in session, your Dominican brother Garrigou-LaGrange used to take off to preach retreats, usually in houses of sisters or nuns. My understanding is that the retreats weren’t commentaries on the mass readings but rather on the Spiritual Life

    3. Speaking of preachers, I saw that Fr Finbarr Hayes died. Perhaps the best preacher I ever heard. RIP

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