The Whole Lectionary

Many people do not know that Sundays and major feasts days are only a small part of the Church’s historic lectionary. These are the chief occasions, yes, but the lectionary, as observed by faithful Christians for centuries, includes much more.

The temporal calendar historically contained propers for most Wednesdays and Fridays of the year, and for the forty days of Lent, the twelve Ember days, the octaves of Easter and Pentecost, and other various occasions. The sanctoral calendar, also part of the historic lectionary, gave propers for nearly every day of the calendar year. Because our current lectionary books were designed chiefly for use on Sundays, most of these additional occasions were not included. This is an unfortunate and recent development, since the Sunday lectionary was not meant to stand alone. It was, so to speak, the central axis around which the propers for the weekdays and additional occasions revolved.

A goodly number of faithful pastors and churches are seeking to restore the ancient and salutary practice of meeting during the week. In fact, if only during Advent and Lent, many of our congregations already observe some form of a mid-week service. But what propers should be used on a Monday, or Wednesday, or Saturday? Today, it’s anyone’s guess. Even among the most historically minded of our pastors, there is likely to be little agreement of practice. But in previous days, a pastor would simply consult the lectionary and follow the pattern of sound words used by generations of faithful saints before him. As the first English publication containing all of the historic lectionary, The Lutheran Missal will be a great blessing and an invaluable resource to the Church.

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