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How the Lectionary was Formed and Revised

Vatican II’s 1963 “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” called for a wider selection of biblical texts to be used at Mass thus opening the Bible to Catholics in brand new ways. On Palm Sunday in 1970, as a result of the mandated changes, a new, three-year cycle lectionary was instituted introducing a greater number of books and passages from the Bible to Catholics, as well as, many more sources for preaching.  As a result, Catholics are much better informed about scripture and the stories of faith that form the foundation for the work of the Gospel today.

The current Lectionary (book of those readings) was prepared by an international committee of experts and went into use on Palm Sunday, 1970.  It has been minimally revised twice.  It includes three-cycles of readings (A, B, C ) for Sundays with the majority of readings coming from Matthew (A), Mark (B) and Luke (C) respectively while the Gospel of John is used for the Easter season, some Sundays in Cycle B, and other times.  Weekday readings were organized into a two-year cycle.

The Lectionary cycles present 14 percent of the Old Testament and 71 percent of the New Testament. In contrast, the readings in the 1963 Roman Missal used 1 percent of the Old Testament and 17 percent of the New Testament.

Generally, Catholics believe that the stories they hear proclaimed at mass are, in fact, the “heart” of our foundational faith stories – the stories we need to hear most to nurture and inspire us to carry out the work of the Gospel for today’s world.  Determining what would be included in the lectionary was a deliberative process conducted by male.  In that process, stories were included and others were left out. Further, an examination of the lectionary reveals that many of the stories of prominent foremothers in faith have been left out.



Liturgy Reflections:  Who is Responsible for our Current Lectionary?  

How Are Mass Readings Chosen? by Pat McCloskey, OFM

Main Differences Between 1970 and 1998 Lectionary by Felix Just SJ

The Scandalous (but true) Story Behind ICEL’s 1969 Lectionary for Mass by Paul Innwood