Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lectio(-nary?) Ideas (and a Chart!)

I have long wanted to make an experimental cycle for reading the whole Bible in a year. There are Catholic plans that exist for this, usually based around the idea of having a similar number of verses each day. But I really wanted to come up with something that tracked the traditional one year lectionary cycle, for the purpose of having a traditional liturgically-based lectio divina schedule (and also to hypothetically imagine what sort of lectionary reform could be implemented if we wanted to put the whole Scriptures into a traditional one-year cycle at Matins and Mass).

I'm not the only one who has contemplated such an idea. See this page, for example. However, the idea given there seems to be that you will only be reading one book at a time, whereas I wanted an "Old Testament/Epistle/Gospel" format (though Old/New would also have been workable, I think, given that there are simply a lot fewer total verses in the New Testament). I wasn't at all concerned about having the readings be of similar length (and indeed there is quite a bit of variation, from very small readings, to several chapters at a time from the longer Old Testament books).

So I came up with this chart. The readings in bold are the traditional readings of the temporal cycle. The readings in red were drawn from the "restored" lessons of the historic lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (I used this just to fill in a few missing Epistle readings on special days). If a verse is in light blue, it indicates that I expanded the traditional reading slightly simply for the sake of completeness. The carats during the Pentecost octave indicate that the reading was taken from a day above; specifically, the Tuesday has basically two Acts sections, so I moved the second down to Friday which had none (traditionally the first reading is from Joel in the Old Testament). And since Trinity Sunday perpetually occludes the Sunday, I moved the Sunday's reading down to Monday (since traditionally the subsequent ferias were the only time the Mass for the First Sunday after Pentecost was used).

I'll explain the choices I made in this post.

I based the yearly cycle on the traditional liturgical calendar. As such, instead of fixed dates, it is based on the traditional weeks of the liturgical seasons, which are only truly fixed around Christmas time. So, for example, "Wednesday after the Second Sunday of Lent" or "Friday after the Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost." Because of the way that Easter is moveable, this traditionally means that four "flex weeks" may occur either after Epiphany, or be transferred to immediately before the end of the liturgical year. I had to keep this in mind. But, generally, all the liturgical weeks occur each year.

The only times they don't are the rare occasions when Easter occurs at the earliest possible dates and Christmas occurs on certain weekdays, which can lead to the Second Week of Epiphany being occluded (in which case the Sunday is anticipated, and everything from that week would have to be read anticipated). And also years when Christmas occurs on a Monday and so the the Fourth Sunday of Advent is Christmas Eve and there is no Fourth Week to speak of. In such a case, the Epiphany Octave (which usually has space for exactly as many days of its own lessons as were left out of the Fourth Week of Advent in a given year) also is cut short on space. Under the current system one just has to anticipate the lessons, I suppose, but a better system might be to reform the rubrics slightly so that if the Sunday Within the Octave of Epiphany occurs on January 7th, the readings for the First Week of Epiphany don't start until the next Sunday (which would also allow that Sunday to be actually used at some point instead of being perpetually occluded by either Holy Family or the Octave Day).

It should be noted that this is based only on the Temporal Cycle. The Sundays, Advent, Christmastide (though that actually is based on fixed dates) Septuagesima, and Lent, and Ember Days and Rogation Days, and holy days like Ascension, Corpus Christi, and Sacred Heart which are based on the Temporal Cycle (rather than the fixed dates of the Sanctoral Cycle). I did not (could not, really) take into account feasts or solemnities that would interrupt this cycle; it is not feasible to take these into account in terms of making sure that all Scripture occurs each year, and when they do interrupt the Temporal Cycle's lessons (I would be inclined to have proper readings only at the most important feasts), the lost ones would simply have to be anticipated by combining them with the nearest readings that are part of the lectio continua. (Of course, this would only be an issue for a theoretical lectionary; in personal lectio divina, one would not have to take the Sanctoral Cycle into account at all if one did not want). 

The only really moveable days the chart includes in that sense are the traditional readings for the Ember Days in September, which can occur at various weeks after Pentecost but which are still Temporal rather than Sanctoral really; when they fall, I just indicated to combine the occluded Gospels (and Epistle) with the the previous day.

For the Old Testament readings, the traditional cycle at Matins definitely has to be your starting point, as the suggestions in that article I linked makes clear. There are not many days at Mass that have Old Testament Scripture in the Old Rite; mainly just the days of Lent and Ember Days. Mass is never going to be a realistic place to attempt a full lectio continua of the Old Testament, even if you were to introduce daily/ferial Old Testament readings. That will always be the appropriate place only for the most important selections.

From this perspective, however, Matins leaves something to be desired in terms of a year-long Old Testament cycle, since the weeks after Epiphany are all Epistle readings at Matins (which seems wasteful of Matins lessons space: as those Epistle readings could be put at Mass) and likewise after Easter are New Testament too. And yet, there are books totally left out!

So I had to alter the Matins cycle to fit the whole Old Testament (while not including any New Testament) in a way that makes some major changes but which keeps the general spirit of the logic around whic the readings at Matins seem to be structured (as described in the suggestions in the article I linked). My basic logic for Matins/Old Testament lessons was this:

Isaias is very traditional at Advent.

The time right around Christmas is too "proper" and too variable to try to put any continuous reading of a single book there in the lectionary, so for my own lectio divina cycle I put the Psalms there which can be divided up easily as needed to fit the number of days needed during that time (but which would not ever be used in an actual Matins lectionary since the psalter occurs complete each week across the various hours of the Divine Office, and since I would be disinclined to meddle with the traditional fixed proper lessons from this period in the year). The psalms are songs of praise, mostly, so they are fitting for Christmas time (albeit some of have a more penitential tone that might be a sort of "call-back" to Advent).

For the first two weeks after epiphany (the first of which always occurs, and the second of which almost always does; if the second week did not occur, you'd simply do it all in one week) I put Job because it can stand alone, but could also be conceptually grouped with the other "Stories about One Main Character" books. This time of year is a sort of "limbo" liturgically. We've finished contemplating Eschatological themes from the end of the year and Advent up to Epiphany, but we haven't started yet with Creation at Septuagesima and the Old Law at Lent and all the History that takes up post-Pentecost time. In the dead of winter, the themes of Job seem appropriate for this awkward liturgical holding-space time that is after the end of the world, but before its beginning from the beginning of salvation history again.

For the remaining weeks after epiphany (where at Matins there were just Epistles, remember) I put the "Stories about One Main Character" books (Ruth, Tobias, Judith, Esther) because this is the part of the year that can occur in January/February, but which also can be moved or split-up with some or all of it put in November depending on how early Easter is. These books seem easiest to do that with in a cycle as they can stand alone as stories (with each other and with Job), but they also wouldn't be out of place occurring near the end of the "History" section of the year (albeit a bit out of "chronological" order), so they're rather "flexible" books in terms of placement, which is perfect for this "flexible" part of the calendar.

Then at Septuagesima, Sexagesima, Quinquagesima, and Lent I, II, and III...I put the Pentateuch. This makes sense and is vaguely traditional and what was recommended in that article I linked. Yes, the Matins lectionary itself focuses on Genesis (and a bit of Exodus) but expanding it to the whole Pentateuch make sense. To fit, the readings have to be quite long each day, which fits the penitential spirit of Lent, as does the "boring"/dry nature of all the Mosaic Law stuff in Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, etc. Indeed, Lent symbolically is about our "bondage to the Law" before Easter brings in "freedom in Grace" so concentrating on the Old Law during this part of the year is traditional (and besides, except for the Sundays, Lent had no proper scripture at Matins during this time anyway, only Gospel Homilies, so there's a good chunk of free space for putting the Pentateuch at the "beginning" of the salvation-history story of the liturgical year).

Passiontide remains, as traditional, Jeremias, and Holy Week remains Lamentations. So I also put Baruch (associated strongly with Jeremias, of course) at Lent VI so he would be near Jeremias (and his book also has penitential themes appropriate to Lent).

During Easter (where at Matins there were New Testament readings) I put the Wisdom books, as "Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men." By putting them here at Easter instead of later, this also freed up space in the Fall for filling in the remaining History books that the Matins lectionary didn't originally include. Easter "interrupts history" as it were with more mystical/poetic tones, and I especially like putting the Canticle of Canticles during the Easter Octave (at Matins it has no Scripture, just Gospel Homilies) and Ecclesiastes during the Pentecost Octave (same thing) as these are very "special" and mystical books, in my mind.

Then the rest of the year is just the History, basically, in its chronological order, which is what Matins did traditionally. However, instead of doing the weird thing where Matins switches to Months (August, September, October, November) instead of Weeks After Pentecost in late Summer...I just kept it determined by Weeks After Pentecost. At the end of the year (as we start focusing on eschatological themes), as traditional, Ezechiel, the Minor Prophets, and finally Daniel make their appearance.

Between the minor prophets and Daniel during the last week some of the "story books" from Epiphany time might be inserted in a given year, as I discussed previously. That's a bit disruptive of the end of the year "prophecy" theme (though, perhaps more seamless considering I make Jonah the last Minor Prophet read that week...since he is both a Minor Prophet and a sort of "story book") but it's not terrible, and the last week of the year will still always be Daniel with his eschatological vision. (I might actually explore, if I were in charge of reforming the traditional liturgy, having these flex weeks be inserted after the 19th Week of Pentecost in the Fall, rather than interrupting in between the 23rd and 24th Weeks...)

For the Epistles, then, I started first by assuming that the traditional Mass Epistle readings on Sundays and other days of the Temporal Cycle would remain in place. There is actually more space in this regard, because the days of Lent have Old Testament readings at Mass instead of Epistles.

Then, layered over this traditional cycle, on the remaining free days, the ferias, looked to the Ferial Lectionary of 1967 to fill in a lectio continua of the Epistles. I did not bother to slavishly exclude the verses already covered by the traditional Sunday readings; I wasn't going to interrupt the continuous reading of Epistles merely to eliminate all redundancy in the lectionary.

In terms of the distribution, Romans takes up Advent. The first two weeks after Epiphany (which almost always occur, in January/February) have James and then for the four "flex weeks" that can be moved to the end of the year I put most of Revelations (except the very end which will always be the Last Week of the liturgical year in November before Advent starts).

I didn't exactly consider this ideal (and as I said above, it would actually make more sense to me, for a lot of reasons, to have the flex weeks inserted between the 19th and 20th weeks after Pentecost instead of the 23rd and 24th/Last weeks; in which case I would put the smaller Epistles at the Time After Epiphany and keep Revelations in its entirety at the end of the liturgical year; this may be one reason why Matins traditionally did that August/September/October/November thing instead of keeping the Weeks After Pentecost/Epiphany cycle), but the idea is that in years when all four weeks are moved to the end of the year, Revelations will all occur at the end of the year, but in years where fewer than four are moved to the end of the year...Revelations seemed one of the least controversial books to "split up" between two parts of the liturgical year (especially since the Time After Epiphany is an awkward time anyway).

At Septuagesima I put Galatians, at Lent Colossians and Hebrews, and then at Eastertide is Acts with its account of the history of the Apostolic Church immediately after the Resurrection, and then the rest of the year is filled out with the rest of the Epistles in basically the same order suggested by the Ferial Lectionary of 1967 except I rearranged some of the smaller Epistles at the very end of the cycle.

For the Gospels, I kept the traditional Gospel readings from the Temporal Cycle (Sundays, all the days of Lent, all the fixed days around Christmas, Ember Days, Octaves of Easter and Pentecost, etc) and then, as with the Epistles, layered in a sort of lectio continua. Though there was less space for Gospels than for Epistles, as all the days of Lent have their own proper Gospel.

As with the Epistles, I generally did not
bother to slavishly exclude the verses already covered by the traditional readings; I wasn't going to interrupt the continuous reading of Gospels merely to eliminate all redundancy in the lectionary. However, taking my cue from the 1967 Ferial Lectionary (and just from common sense), I did exclude the Infancy/introductory chapters (generally up to the Baptism/40 Days in the Desert) from the lectio continua (these occurred at their appropriate narrative time around Advent/Christmas/Epiphany instead) and I of course excluded the Passion Narratives, and the Resurrection chapters at the ends of the Gospels (which occur around Holy Week and Easter instead), and also the Palm Sunday story (which occurs right around Palm Sunday in the liturgical year anyway).

So basically, after putting the Christmas/Easter material at the appropriate corresponding time in the liturgical year, I took the remaining "Public Ministry" chapters of the Gospels and distributed them on the free ferias in a continuous reading. Taking my cue, again, from the 1967 Ferial Lectionary, the shortest Gospel, Mark, occurs after Epiphany (which means it could get split up, for better or worse), John occurs (rather naturally, I think) during Eastertide, and then Luke and Matthew fill out the time after Pentecost.

If one were to take my lectio reading chart and imagine making it an actual working lectionary for the Roman Rite, few changes would need to be made. As I mentioned above, the Psalms would not be read at Matins around Christmas (rather, the traditional proper readings would just be used) and I might be inclined to interrupt the lectio continua for the Sundays of Septuagesima and Lent (to keep their traditional Matins lessons, which it has been suggested are thematically "structural" to the liturgy), but the "Ordinary Time" Sundays do not have "special" readings and seem to just be part of the general partial lectio continua that the traditional Matins lectionary vaguely attempted. My system assumes that Scripture would occur each day at Matins (the selections I've chosen would have to be divided into the traditional three lessons), and that things would be restructured (perhaps by always having nine lessons every day, or at least on these days) so that days that currently have simply a Gospel Homily instead of any Scripture would, in fact, have Scripture too.

Old Testament readings at Mass would not be effected by this system as Matins, not Mass, is the basis for the "full Scripture" principle in this system. Mass, I assume, would keep the traditional readings (during Lent and on Ember Days) where the Old Testament would be used, Sundays could use the "restored Prophecy" readings that have been reconstructed from historical sources based on something like the Lutheran Service Book one-year lectionary, and then the rest of the free ferias could be filled in with the most important selections from whatever book is currently being read at Matins.

The Epistles and Gospels would not really require any changes to be adapted into the actual lectionary from my system. The only change this would really require to the traditional cycle would be that a few of the Resurrection accounts at Eastertide would be expanded so that the entirety of each Gospel is included rather than merely selections, and a few other readings (a couple of the Passion accounts, and few readings around Christmas) would likewise be expanded. Also, I included John 1:1-14 on the fifth day of Christmas, though traditionally it was the reading for the Mass of the Day on Christmas (since Christmas had three Masses). I needed to put it somewhere in my chart, but a real lectionary would probably replace it with something else as redundant.

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