Thursday 23 December 2010

Well I prefer the old lectionary...

There seems to be something of a consensus among those who take an interest in such issues that whatever one may think of the Novus Ordo generally, the new lectionary is a great improvement. Over the three year cycle we hear the vast bulk of the Bible read in Church; we have three readings at Mass every Sunday, the first from the Old Testament that was sadly neglected in the older lectionary and so on.

I disagree.

One reason for my preference for the Old Lectionary is the advantage of a one year cycle. Having the same readings at Mass on the same Sundays of the year creates a certain familiarity: we start to recognise the pattern and feel at home in it. I think that is nigh on impossible to achieve with a three year cycle, and I think the loss is a significant one.

Underlying that, I realise, is a different understanding of what we are doing at Mass. I don't mean the most important issue of attending the sacrifice of the Calvary versus a gathering of remembrance or whatever. Rather, I think of the Mass as (inter alia) a familial gathering.

Families thrive on rituals and celebrations, and nearly all of these run on an annual cycle: birthdays, anniversaries, saints days, feast days. I think an annual cycle of readings meshes well with that.

The other model, implicit in the new lectionary, is that the Mass is a school room, where we come to be instructed in the Faith. Of course there is room for some instruction at Mass: that is what the Homily is for. But instruction is not the primary focus of the Mass, and if we rely solely on the Mass for instruction, we will end up poorly-instructed.

So of course we should be familiar with the Old Testament and how it informs the New; but the Mass is not, in my view, the place for that.

Incidentally, the ordinary of the Extraordinary Form is saturated in the Old Testament; and those who wanted more of the Old Testament proclaimed were those who stripped out so many of the psalms and other verses; with the same kind of logic as saying we needed to be much more aware of the active working of the Holy Spirit, and therefore we will no longer refer to the Sundays after Pentecost, but instead call them Ordinary Time...

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