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The Revised Common Lectionary 1992
The Report from the Consultation on Common Texts
By Abington Press
Abingdon PressCopyright © 1992 Consultation on Common Texts (CCT)
All rights reserved.
I. What Is a Lectionary?
1. A lectionary is a collection of readings or selections from the Scriptures, arranged and intended for proclamation during the worship of the People of God.
2. Lectionaries (tables of readings) were known and used in the fourth century, where major churches arranged the Scripture readings according to a schedule which follows the calendar of the church's year. Early lectionaries usually involved continuous reading, with each Sundays texts picking up where they left off on the previous Sunday. This practice of assigning particular readings to each Sunday and festival has continued down through the history of the Christian Church. A constant pattern, however, seems to be that the later additions of special days and feasts tended to obscure the simplicity of the original Sunday texts, so that after every few centuries, the calendar needed to be simplified and pruned in order to manifest its earlier clarity.
3. Important examples of lectionaries are the Roman Lectionary for Mass of 1969, the Common Lectionary of 1983, and the Revised Common Lectionary of 1992. The two versions of the Common Lectionary are based on and derived from the Roman book.
Types of lectionaries
4. Lectionaries come in two basic forms:
a. A simple table of readings, which gives the liturgical day or date, and the Scripture references for the texts to be proclaimed. In this case, readings are usually proclaimed from a pulpit Bible. The Revised Common Lectionary is a modern example of such a table.
b. A full-text edition, which fleshes out the references by reprinting the specific texts from a particular translation of the Bible. Examples of this are the Roman Catholic Lectionary for Mass, containing the Sunday and weekday texts, and the lectionaries of the Episcopal, Lutheran, and Methodist Churches in the United States.
II. How to Use a Lectionary
5. A lectionary may be used in several ways:
a. To provide whole churches or denominations with a uniform and common pattern of biblical proclamation.
b. As a guide for clergy, preachers, church members, musicians, and Sunday school teachers, that shows them which texts are to be read on a given Sunday.
c. As a guide and resource for clergy from different local churches who wish to work and pray together as they share their resources and insights while preparing for their preaching.
d. As a resource for those who produce ecumenical preaching aids, commentaries, Sunday school curricula, and other devotional aids.
e. As a guide to individuals and groups who wish to read, study, and pray the Bible in tune with the church's prayer and preaching. Some local churches print the references to the following Sunday's readings in their bulletins and encourage people to come prepared for the next week's celebration; the psalm reference might also be included to encourage reflection on the first reading.
6. The lectionary also shows us the relationship of the readings of one Sunday with those that come before and after it. Within each of the major seasons of Lent, Easter, Advent, and Christmas-Epiphany, the flow of the season is reflected in all the Scripture texts, taken together as a set for each Sunday.
III. The Table of Readings
Finding the correct year
7. The lectionary for Sundays and major festivals is arranged in a three-year cycle. The years are known as Year A, the year of Matthew; Year B, the year of Mark; and Year C, the year of Luke.
8. The First Sunday of Advent 2007 begins a new cycle of readings: they are selected from year A, the year of Matthew, and continue until the final Sunday of the liturgical year. Then a new year begins in Advent 2008, year B, the year of Mark. Year A always begins on the First Sunday of Advent in years which can be evenly divided by three (e.g., 2007, 2010, etc.).
9. At the national and international levels, individual denominations usually issue annual calendares based on the calendar of the Common Lectionary.
10. The numbering of verses in this table of readings follows that used in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible; adaptations may be necessary if other versions of the Bible are used.
Relationship of gospel and first reading
11. From the First Sunday of Advent to Trinity Sunday of each year, the Old Testament reading is closely related to the gospel reading for the day. From the first Sunday after Trinity Sunday to Christ the King, provision has been made for two patterns of reading the Old Testament from Proper 4  to Proper 29 .
a. Provision of a pattern of paired readings in which the Old Testament and gospel readings are closely related. For example, in Year A, Proper 6, Exodus 19:2-8a and its response, Psalm 100, are used in conjunction with Romans 5:1-8 and Matthew 9:35–10:8.
b. Provision of a pattern of semicontinuous Old Testament readings, such as found in Year A, Propers 7 and 8, where Genesis 21:8-21, on one Sunday, is followed by Genesis 22:1-14, the next Sunday.
For all these Sundays between Pentecost and Advent, churches and denominations may determine which of these patterns better serves their needs. Some denominations will accept one or both patterns for all their congregations; others may choose to let local liturgy planners determine which of these two patterns better serves their needs. The Revised Common Lectionary does not propose one set as more favored than the other, but the use of the two patterns should not be mixed.
Deuterocanonical (Apocrypha) readings
12. In all places where a reading from the deuterocanonical books (The Apocrypha) is listed, an alternate reading from the canonical Scriptures has also been provided.
13. The psalm is a congregational response and meditation on the first reading, and is not intended as another reading. Where a choice of first readings is given, especially in the Sundays after Pentecost, the corresponding psalm or canticle should also be used.
14. Fifteen psalms (104–106, 111–113, 115–117, 135, 146–150) begin and/or end with the Hebrew "Hallelujah" ("Alleluia"; NRSV translation, "Praise the Lord"). These Hallel psalms play a particular role in Jewish liturgy, especially in the feast of the Passover. Whenever a portion of a Hallel psalm is appointed by the Revised Common Lectionary, the versification indicates that it is desirable to include the "Hallelujah" ("Alleluia") or "Praise the Lord" which begins and/or ends the psalm. It may also be used as a refrain after each verse or set of verses.
15. In the opening verses of readings, when a pulpit Bible is used, the reader should omit initial conjunctions which refer only to what has preceded, and substitute nouns for pronouns when the person referred to is not otherwise clear. The reader may also preface the reading with an introduction, such as "N. said (to N.)."
16. When appropriate, readings may be shortened or lengthened, with discretion. Suggested longer readings are indicated by the verses in parentheses.
Two numbering systems
17. Users should follow one of the two numbering systems provided for the Propers. The Arabic numbers without brackets begin on the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany. This method gives fixed monthly dates (with a six-day cycle) for each set of readings. The bracketed numbers [-] refer to the systems used by the Roman Catholic Church and The Anglican Church of Canada, based on the Roman lectionary. The differing numbers do not indicate differing readings.
18. To assist all denominations, the dates between which the readings may occur (on the Sundays after Pentecost) are also provided.
IV. Using the Revised Common Lectionary
19. The Revised Common Lectionary and its earlier edition of 1983 continue the pattern of the Roman Lectionary for Mass of 1969. The 1992 revision follows the basic calendar of the Western church, provides for a three-year cycle of three readings, and allows the sequence of gospel readings each year to lead God's people to a deeper knowledge of Christ and faith in him. It is the paschal mystery of the saving death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus that is proclaimed through the lectionary readings and the preaching of the Church.
20. Except for occasional changes, the Revised Common Lectionary accepts the cornerstone of the Roman lectionary: the semicontinuous reading of the three synoptic gospels over a three-year period. This pattern connects the first reading with the gospel for the Sundays after Epiphany and Pentecost. The Old Testament passage is perceived as a parallel, a contrast, or as a type leading to its fulfillment in the gospel. The Revised Common Lectionary provides two approaches to the first reading for the Sundays after Pentecost: one set of Old Testament readings continues the Roman lectionary pattern, while the other offers a series of semicontinuous passages, allowing a larger variety of particular Old Testament themes to be presented.
21. Lectionary tables and calendars are always interconnected. At the heart of the particular way each calendar sets out its selected readings is a very basic view about our faith and our Christian way of life. The Revised Common Lectionary has taken the present Western calendar for Sundays, has simplified it to a certain extent by moving away from some recurring annual festivals with their distinctive themes, and has returned to a pattern of continuous or semicontinuous reading in one system for successive Lord's Days after Pentecost.
22. The Revised Common Lectionary calendar contains both festival Sundays around the celebrations of Easter and Christmas, and the ordinary Sundays following the feasts of Epiphany and Pentecost. These are described in the following notes.
A three-year cycle of Sunday readings
23. The lectionary provides a three-year plan or pattern for the Sunday readings. Each year is centered on one of the synoptic gospels. Year A is the year of Matthew, Year B is the year of Mark, and Year C is the year of Luke. John is read each year, especially in the times around Christmas, Lent, and Easter, and also in the year of Mark, whose gospel is shorter than the others. The three synoptic evangelists have particular insights into Christ. Each year, we allow one of these gospels to lead us to Christ by a semicontinuous reading during the Sundays in Ordinary Time. Passages and parables that are unique to one evangelist are normally included as part of the Sunday readings.
24. The Revised Common Lectionary, along with its Roman parent, emphatically relates the gospels for the Sundays of Lent with the Easter proclamation. This is particularly true in year A, where the baptismal emphasis is strong. These Sundays relate closely to the primary Lenten theme, preparation for the joy of Easter, rather than to a penitential note. On the Sunday before Easter, known as Palm or Passion Sunday, it is recommended that both the story of the palm procession and the passion narrative be used. For some Christians, this marks a significant reform of liturgical praxis in providing a balanced experience and understanding of the whole event of Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection.
25. A final concern in relation to the Easter cycle has to do with the disuse of the Hebrew Scriptures during the season of Easter in the Roman lectionary (a practice mentioned by Augustine in the fifth century). Following the liturgical tradition of the Ambrosian and Hispanic rites in the West and also that of the majority of the Churches in the East, the Roman lectionary of 1969 does not use the Old Testament during the Great Fifty Days from Easter to Pentecost. Nevertheless, the Roman rite has included extensive Old Testament readings in the vigils for Easter and Pentecost. The Revised Common Lectionary has, however, provided alternate Old Testament readings for those feasts and rubrics which provide for the unvarying use on those festivals of crucial readings from the Acts of the Apostles as the second reading.
26. As Acts becomes the first reading on these great Sundays, the apostolic reading (epistle) is taken from 1 Peter, the letters of John, and the book of Revelation. The purpose of this selection is to complement the Acts narrative of the formation and growth of the resurrection community with a theological commentary on the character of its inner life, namely, its mutual love, and its life of praise in anticipation of the fulfillment of the kingdom.
27. The structure of the Christmas cycle presumes an Advent which is basically eschatological (looking forward to the return or second coming of the Lord Jesus and the realization of the reign of God) more than a season of preparation for Christmas (which recalls his first coming among us). In the readings, Isaiah is prominent, along with Jeremiah, Malachi, Zephaniah, Micah, and 2 Samuel. The gospels of the first Sunday in each year are all apocalyptic; those of the second and third Sundays refer to the preaching and ministry of John the Baptist. On the Fourth Sunday of Advent the annunciation of the birth of Christ is proclaimed.
28. On the Epiphany, the gospel of the sages from the East is read. The Sunday after the Epiphany has the Baptism of the Lord as its theme. The rubrics of the Revised Common Lectionary make provision to ensure the celebration of the Lord's baptism when the Epiphany is celebrated on the Sunday after January 6. The Revised Common Lectionary leaves the last Sunday after Epiphany, the Sunday before Lent begins, open to two different centuries-old traditions: provision has been made for reading the Transfiguration gospel either on the last Sunday after Epiphany or on the Second Sunday of Lent. The underlying issue here is whether or not the Sundays after Epiphany are regarded as a season with an Epiphany theme (the manifestation or revelation of God), or simply, as in the Roman calendar, the beginning of the Sundays in Ordinary Time, which will resume their sequence after Pentecost.
Sundays during the year
29. The Revised Common Lectionary adopts the plan used in the Roman calendar, whereby "Ordinary Time" is the period outside the seasons of Lent and Easter, Advent and Christmas. The 33 or 34 Sundays which fall in the periods after the Baptism of the Lord and after Pentecost form a distinct sequence, and are guided by the gospel of the year.
30. In the Roman lectionary, the readings for the Sundays in Ordinary Time do not form a complete set, as they do during the Easter and Christmas cycles. The operative principle of selection is a semicontinuous pattern of readings from the synoptic gospels week by week; the more ancient lectionaries also tended to use continuous or semicontinuous readings. Although the Roman lectionary works this way with the New Testament and gospel readings, it chooses the Old Testament passage for its close relationship with the gospel of the day (see Luke 24:26-27, 44-47; John 5:39; Acts 28:23). During the Sundays after the Epiphany, the Revised Common Lectionary continues this pattern.
31. It is at this point that the Revised Common Lectionary begins to vary from the Roman pattern: two distinct systems are offered for the Sundays after Pentecost (Propers 4-29). While system 2 continues the Roman pattern, system 1 applies the semicontinuous method to the first reading as well (in a sense, carrying out the logic of the Roman model more consistently than it has done itself).
32. The principle of the continuous reading of biblical books functions in other ways as well. Just as the ordinary Sundays are the occasion for reading the synoptic gospels over three successive years, so also are these same gospels used largely for the festival Sundays and seasons, although there the fourth gospel will also be found. Similarly, over the three-year cycle of the lectionary, those same Sundays will provide worshippers with most of the important texts of the Pauline corpus. In some seasons, certain books are read intensively, such as Isaiah in Advent and the letters of John and Peter, Revelation, and Acts in the season of Easter. The significance of this principle is that the biblical books are read in such a way as to permit them to contextualize themselves. Surely this is a matter of some importance, especially in terms of homiletical assumptions.
Excerpted from The Revised Common Lectionary 1992 by Abington Press. Copyright © 1992 Consultation on Common Texts (CCT). Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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