The Catholic Liturgical Year and Lectionary

I recently had a couple who are regularly readers of this blog and participants in my webinars ask me if I have anything new to offer on the liturgical year and/or the lectionary. As regular readers they are already aware of past articles like “The Liturgical Year” on my website. I wrote this article several years ago with some minor revisions made over the years. The liturgical year has not changed in recent years. The last changes I am aware of to the liturgical year were from the Second Vatican Council. Of course, this does not mean that my article, “The Liturgical Year”, covers everything that one could possibly know about the liturgical year. It doesn’t and it isn’t supposed to. This article is meant as an introduction.

Expanding on the information in that article, I have done presentations covering Lent, most recently, Starting Lent Right, and Advent, Advent: Preparing for the Incarnation. I have not done presentations on Christmas, Easter, or Ordinary Time. I am not sure a presentation on “Ordinary Time” is in order as we call it “Ordinary Time” to simply signify it is not Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter. It is the balance of the year. If you have questions about Ordinary Time, I welcome them and will do my best to address them. As to Christmas and Easter, I will have to give them some thought. We celebrate Christmas as a season with several memorials and feasts, the first of Stephen, the first martyr on December 26th, the Feast of the Holy Family, the Epiphany, and the Baptism of the Lord are a few of them. Likewise, we celebrate Easter as a season that includes Divine Mercy Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday, the Ascension, and Pentecost. If you have specific questions about Christmas or Easter, please feel free to ask them by using the comment feature to this article.

You can also find some information about the liturgical year, specifically the colors, in the second part of my short video about the vestments wore at Mass.

You will also find the liturgical year discussed in the first half of my short video on “The Liturgical Books for Mass.” As I indicated above, in addition to asking about the liturgical year, the couple also asked about the lectionary. The Lectionary is the book we use at Mass that contains all the readings for Mass. The Lectionary last underwent a major revision from the Second Vatican Council (at the same time the liturgical year was restructured) with minor updates made in the translations around the year 2000.

The complete Lectionary in the United States is published in a four volume set. The first volume is the Sunday Lectionary. It is on a three-year cycle. In Year A we read predominantly from the Gospel of Matthew. Year B features the Gospel of Mark and Year C features the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of John is used during Advent, Lent, and Easter of all three years. The first reading is from the Old Testament, except during Easter when it is from the Acts of the Apostles. The Old Testament reading is selected to match the theme of the gospel reading, showing the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament. On Sunday and holy days, the second reading is always taken from a New Testament letter.

The Lectionary for daily Mass follows a two-year cycle. Year I is volume II of the four-part lectionary and Year II is volume III. (Volume IV is suggested readings for special Masses.) Actually, the gospels for daily Mass are on a one-year cycle where we read from all four gospels each year. The first reading may come from the Old Testament or the New Testament and is on a two-year cycle. Generally there is no second reading for daily Mass except for some feasts and all solemnities.

I hope this helps you think about both the liturgical year and the Lectionary. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have. I’ll end by mentioning I am in the early stages of preparing for some presentations in the coming months. I hope to announce something later this week.


Fr. Jeff

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