Hearing Christ's Voice

Page 1

Hearing Christ’s Voice A New Lectionary for the Church

All booklets are published thanks to the generosity of the supporters of the Catholic Truth Society

First published 2024 by The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society 42-46 Harleyford Road London SE11 5AY Tel: 020 7640 0042. www.ctsbooks.org © 2024 The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society. All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-78469-806-5 All biblical quotations are taken from the ESV-CE. Contents Introduction: Unrolling the Scroll .................. 3 Why a New Lectionary? ........................... 7 What is a Lectionary? ........................... 11 What is the Liturgy of the Word? .................. 23 Why this Version of the Bible? What is the English Standard Version? ............. 30 What Happens Elsewhere? ........................ 46 What Will the New Lectionary Ask of Us and What Will It Bring Us? ....................... 48 Conclusion: Extinguishing the Lamps .............. 53


Unrolling the Scroll

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath, and he stood up to read. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:16-18)

For St Luke, this is a turning point in the Gospel. Jesus, having been baptised by John and overcome the testing of Satan, begins his public ministry by reading a programmatic text from the prophet Isaiah at the Sabbath synagogue service in Nazareth. From this action flows the whole public ministry of Jesus. There is something particularly arresting in the mention of Jesus physically “unrolling the scroll”. The Word made flesh took a scroll into his hands and read out the words written on it. This


scroll (of papyrus or parchment presumably) has long since crumbled into dust, but the Lord’s proclamation has not. It continues. It remains alive. “Today”, he added, “this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). What was really being “unrolled” here was the purpose of God: the coming of his Kingdom, the advent of the Messiah.

This dramatic passage throws our minds forward to another biblical opening of a scroll – that recounted in the Book of Revelation. Now we are no longer in a synagogue on earth, but in the throne-room of heaven. John the Seer, more commonly known as John the Evangelist, sees a scroll in the right hand of the one seated on the throne, that is, God the Father. It is a scroll sealed with seven seals. It contains the mystery of God’s plan for human history and its consummation. To John’s dismay, there seems no one capable of opening it – until he sees “a lamb standing as if he had been slain, with seven horns and seven eyes” (Rev 5:6). This is the crucified and risen Christ, replete with power and knowledge. He can open the mysterious scroll, breaking its seals one by one. Just as the whole ministry of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke flows from his act of unrolling the scroll in the synagogue of Nazareth, so in a sense the whole revelation of the “last things” that fill the Apocalypse flows from the Lamb’s breaking the seals of the scroll he has received from God’s right hand.


On the first Sunday of Advent 2024, throughout England, Wales and Scotland, a new Lectionary comes into force. Countless readers at ambos in churches throughout the country will open newly published books and proclaim the word of the Lord. This will be a continuation and an echo of what the Lord did in Nazareth and does in heaven. It is the same event of the unfolding of the mystery, the plan, of God. It is Christ the Lector, Christ the Word in action.

“He [Christ] is always present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church,” said the Second Vatican Council (Sacrosanctum Concilium 71). And again, “… [I]n the liturgy God speaks to his people and Christ still proclaims the Gospel” (SC 33).

A new Lectionary is a fresh chance to hear Christ speaking to us with the ears of faith; to take a fresh look at the Liturgy of the Word; to sense the “living and active” quality of God’s word (Heb 4:12); to let it bring us together with others; and to incorporate it more into our lives.

It can help us share the aspiration of St Ignatius of Antioch not to be a mere sound, but “a word of God” (Letter to the Romans, 2).

1 Sacrosanctum Concilium hereafter abbreviated SC.


This booklet seeks to address some of the questions that naturally arise with the advent of a new liturgical book, and such a major one:

• Why a new Lectionary?

• What is a Lectionary?

• What is the Liturgy of the Word?

• Why this version of Scripture? And why this new version of the Psalms?

• What is done in other parts of the Catholic world?

• What will it ask of us and what will it bring us?


Why a New Lectionary?

Let us first clarify what “new” means in this context.

One of the fruits of the liturgical reform mandated by the Second Vatican Council was the publication in Latin of a new Lectionary, the Ordo Lectionum Missae (Order of Readings for Mass). We shall return to it below. The first edition of this appeared in 1969 and a second, also in Latin, in 1981. This latter remains in force and is normative for the various vernacular editions of the Lectionary used in different parts of the world. It is called the “second typical edition”. Our “new” Lectionary, therefore, is not, nor is it occasioned by, any new Latin original (saving material published for new feasts and memorials). Rather, it is a new English version of this authoritative original. It is a fresh iteration of something we already know.

The Lectionary is unique among the liturgical books of the Roman Rite: in others, the original Latin text is rendered directly into the contemporary languages concerned: a Latin Collect or Preface, for example,


becomes English or Swedish or Swahili, or whatever. With the Lectionary, however, the translations of the Scripture readings it contains are made from the original biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, not from the Latin version of the Bible. In practice, this normally means adopting a version of the Bible already existing in the vernacular language concerned.

The “newness”, then, of any new edition or version of the Lectionary lies not in the choice of readings, nor in its structure and arrangement – these are all “givens” –but in the versions of Scripture used. This, we might say, is where the fun begins.

By whose authority?

According to Canon Law, echoing the Church’s Tradition and the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (SC 22), “the ordering and guidance of the sacred liturgy depends solely upon the authority of the Church” (c. 838/1).

According to c. 838/3:

It pertains to the Episcopal Conferences to faithfully prepare versions of the liturgical books in vernacular languages, suitably accommodated within defined limits, and to approve and publish the liturgical books for the regions for which they are responsible after the confirmation of the Apostolic See.

Accordingly, the new Lectionary which will come into force on the first Sunday of Advent 2024 is mandated by the Bishops Conferences of England and Wales, and


of Scotland, for their respective territories after having received the approval (confirmatio) of the Apostolic See.

So, on the first Sunday of Advent, we will bid farewell to the version of the Lectionary familiar to us for over fifty years, based on the Jerusalem Bible and the Grail Psalms, and we will begin use of a version based on the English Standard Version Catholic Edition and the Revised Grail Psalms (also known as The Abbey Psalms and Canticles).

Why are these changes being made?

Returning to the question above, why then has it been thought advisable to do this?

There are several convergent reasons.

Since 2001, in large swathes of the Catholic world, there has been a movement, encouraged by Rome, to produce a second “wave” of translations of the liturgical books. We are all aware of the new translation of the Roman Missal that came into play in 2011. The first “wave” followed on the heels of the Second Vatican Council and the wider opening to vernacular liturgy it endorsed. As the new millennium began, it was felt that these translations needed refreshing. There was a heightened sense of the need for greater fidelity to the texts of the “typical editions” and a growing preference for “formal-equivalent” translations over against “dynamicequivalent” translations.

Languages, least of all English, do not stay still. The use of English continues to spread throughout the


world, and usage and vocabulary develop; there is a new sensitivity to inclusive language – and much else.

The Scriptural versions hitherto used can now sound somewhat jaded; biblical scholarship has developed further; new English-language versions of the Bible have proliferated, offering alternatives for liturgical use, for example, the New Revised Standard Version, the second edition of the Catholic RSV, the Revised New Jerusalem Bible, the English Standard Version.

Another factor is the additions since 1969 and 1981 of new feasts and memorials to the Sanctoral of the Roman Calendar, and the developments in National Calendars –all requiring incorporation into the Lectionary.

The need to replace old, worn volumes of the current Lectionary also presents an opportunity for change.

In 2003 a Commission for the Preparation of an English-Language Lectionary (ICPELL) was formed, with the intent of creating an English-language Lectionary for use by several Bishops’ Conferences. Falling between the differing perspectives of the Holy See, of the copyright holders of the various versions of the Bible and of the Bishops’ Conferences, it failed to deliver and it was disbanded in 2013. The need, though, remained.

Hence, for these reasons at least, there was a desire for something new, and it was clear that collaboration between adjacent Conferences of Bishops would be the best instrument for developing this.


Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.