Tuesday, 31 January 2012

What is the lectionary?

Since starting to write my daily reflections on the lectionary gospel readings I have realised it might be nice to provide some background to what the lectionary is. 

This was written in 2009 as part of my LLM Training.

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) was developed in 1983. It is provided so that every Sunday congregations across the Church of England hear the same biblical readings no matter which church they attend. The readings are prescribed on a 3 year cycle providing the following for each Sunday:

- Old Testament, Apocrypha or Acts passage
- Psalms passage
- Epistles or Book of Revelation passage
- Passage from one of the gospels

The RCL provides that Matthew, Mark and Luke gospels are heard in succession, whilst St John’s Gospel is included where appropriate, especially in the year of Mark. The majority of the rest of the New Testament books are also heard in large chunks. The Old Testament is longer than the New Testament and therefore can be read as extensively. To provide for this churches are allowed to choose from two tracks; the first, similarly to the New Testament readings, follows books week by week; where as the second track (related track) provides readings which relate to the Gospel reading for the week.

This system holds for the Ordinary Time in the calendar. There are exceptions to this system where different rules apply; namely during Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter where different lections are chosen. The church year is not just a simple calendar, it provides the opportunity to celebrate sacred times as well as in the other times providing an opportunity to tell the story of God's work in the world.

The 2008/09 calendar is provided below:
Advent Year B, 2008-2009 (Nov 30 - Dec 24, 2008)
Advent Season (Nov 30 - Dec 24, 2008)
Christmas (Dec 25, 2008 - Jan 5, 2009)
Epiphany (and Ordinary Time until Lent) (Jan 6 - Feb 24, 2009)
Shrove Tuesday (Feb 24, 2009)
Ash Wednesday (Feb 25, 2009)
Lent (Mar 1 - April 11, 2009)
Holy Week (April 5-11 (12), 2009)
Maundy Thursday (April 9, 2009)
Good Friday (April 10, 2009).
Easter (April 12, 2009)
Pentecost (May 31, 2009)
Ordinary Time (June 1-Nov 28, 2009
Advent [Year C] (Nov 29 - Dec 24, 2009)

The RCL is used for the main service, defined by individual churches as “principal service”, normally a Eucharist. Other material can be used for other services, the lectionary provides for this or the main service can be used if congregations differ in the majority.

As the year progresses the church colours change in churches which follow this tradition, as shown below. This allows the worshippers to see the changing seasons. The colours are changed on the communion table and pulpit and banners where applicable.

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