Pericopal Cuttings: A Bird’s Eye View

Comes of Würzburg, eighth century, fol. 4v, displaying the incipits and explicits of the Epistles from Quinquagesima through Ember Wednesday in Lent.

Some of the most frequent comments and questions that we receive in our ongoing field testing are those regarding the beginning and ending points of various pericopes. It can be a little perplexing at first — an appointed Gospel may stop or start halfway through a paragraph in your Bible, or maybe the appointed Prophecies ignore chapter divisions with reckless abandon. Perhaps, as in these weeks of Epiphany, an Epistle begins or ends in the middle of a verse. The short response to this is that these pericopal cuttings are usually several centuries older than the verse or chapter numberings in a modern Bible, and the proper question is to ask why the verses and chapters, when they were established, ignored the existing pericopes. But I digress.

The more helpful answer is probably the one that I gave to one inquirer who was curious to know why it was that the Gospel for the First Sunday in Advent, Matthew 21:1–9, didn’t continue through verse 11. I’ve reproduced the requisite texts below so that you can take a look for yourself.

Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”

So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!”

Matthew 21:1–9, NKJV

And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”

So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Matthew 21:10–11, NKJV

If we were looking at this single instance, we might shrug our shoulders and add the two extra verses. After all, the New King James Version, the translation we are using, inserts a new heading after verse 11, placing these verse together in one division. But a quick look at the sources shows something rather striking: none of our sources, spanning some 1300 or more years, does anything like that. Not a single one goes beyond verse 9 in the appointed reading for the First Sunday in Advent.

A quick look through the rest of the lectionary gives an answer as to why — these verses already have a place in the lectionary. The Gospel for the Tuesday of Invocavit is Matthew 21:10–17, recounting the cleansing of the temple, the text of which is provided below.

When Jesus had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”

So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”

Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?”

And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?”

Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there, and taught them concerning the kingdom of God.

Matthew 21:10–17, NKJV

As you can see, the two verses that had seemed at first to be missing from the lectionary already have a home in this pericope, read at the beginning of Lent. With the emphasis of Lent on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in the context of spiritual warfare, you might well see this Gospel text as an illustration of the cleansing of each one of our hearts that is the constant goal of the Christian Church, and most especially during the season of Lent.

But after seeing this instance, I was curious. How, I wondered, did the latter part of the Gospel according to St. Matthew fit into the logic and order of the lectionary? This is what I found.

Matthew 21:1–9 – First Sunday in Advent
Matthew 21:10–17 – Tuesday of Invocavit
Matthew 21:18–22 – Markan parallel (11:11–23) is appointed for Friday of Trinity 3
Matthew 21:23–27 – Wednesday of Trinity 4
Matthew 21:28–32 – Friday of Epiphany 5
Matthew 21:33b–46 – Friday of Reminiscere

Matthew 22:1–14 – Trinity 20
Matthew 22:15–21 – Trinity 23
Matthew 22:22–33 – Lukan parallel (20:27–40) is appointed for Wednesday of Holy Trinity
Matthew 22:34–46 – Trinity 18

Matthew 23:1–12 – Tuesday of Reminiscere
Matthew 23:13–23 – Friday of Trinity 8
Matthew 23:24–33 – Lukan parallel (11:37–46) is appointed for Friday of Trinity 9
Matthew 23:34–39 – St. Stephen

Matthew 24:1–2 – Markan parallel (13:1–2) is in the appointed Gospel for Sts. Gervasius and Protasius
Matthew 24:3–13 – St. Basilides and Companions/Sts. Processus and Martinian
Matthew 24:14 – Markan parallel (13:10) is in the appointed Gospel for Friday of Trinity 19
Matthew 24:15–28 – Trinity 25
Matthew 24:29–31 – Friday of Trinity 25
Matthew 24:32–36 – Lukan parallel (21:29–33) is in the appointed Gospel for Advent 2
Matthew 24:37–42 – Friday of Trinity 24
Matthew 24:42–47 – Sts. Damasus/Sylvester/Gregory/&c.
Matthew 24:48–51 – Markan parallel (13:33–37) is appointed for Friday of Trinity 27/St. Hilary of Poitiers

Matthew 25:1–13 – Trinity 27/Common of a Virgin
Matthew 25:14–30 – Wednesday of Trinity 26/St. Nicholas/Marcellus/Basil/&c
Matthew 25:31–46 – Monday of Invocavit/Trinity 26

Matthew 26:1—27:66 – Palm Sunday

Matthew 28:1–7 – Vigil of Easter
Matthew 28:8–15 – Friday of Quasimodo Geniti
Matthew 28:16–20 – Easter Friday

The only overlap in all of these eight chapters was Matthew 24:42 – “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming,” which served as the closing phrase in one pericope and the opening phrase in another. And in all of these eight chapters, not a single verse is missing. The various sections of this portion of St. Matthew’s Gospel that are not read in his words are all read according to the accounts of either St. Mark or St. Luke.

As you can see, the traditional lectionary, of which we have here only a fragment, is something of an immensely complex puzzle in which nearly every piece of the Gospels fits precisely into place. If any piece seems to be missing, it always seems to show up in another location, sometimes rather unexpectedly. The genius of the various compilers of the lectionary tradition over the centuries is clearly apparent, and I hope to provide you with more examples of this painstaking precision in the future. In the meantime, perhaps you will at least leave with some appreciation of the innate unity and coherence of the lectionary tradition as it has been handed down for the last millennium and a half.

Field Testing Update

In the two weeks since our initial request for field testing volunteers, we’ve been happy to receive nearly 150 responses. The map below displays the states in which clergy have signed up to use the temporal lectionary in congregational worship and provide feedback on a regular basis.

As you can see, we have congregations in 31 US states and 2 Canadian provinces who have signed on, and several more states (not indicated on the map) in which individuals have volunteered to read along with us and provide their feedback. The substantial majority of the congregations and individuals who have responded thus far are members of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod or of partner churches in other countries, but we have also heard from congregations and individuals in the ELCA, ELS, LCMC, NALC, WELS, several other Lutheran churches, as well as Anglicans and Roman Catholics. We’re glad to welcome everyone on board for this next year, and look forward to hearing your feedback.

We plan to send out the readings for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany in the very near future, so if you haven’t yet signed up, please do so here, and pass it along to others who may be interested.

Calvinistic Corruptions

Museum to mark King James Bible's 400th | The Blade
First Edition King James Bible (1604)

Two Anglican publications have had a profound effect on the worship of nearly all English-speaking Lutherans: The King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Nearly every reading, intervenient chant, and collect used in our liturgy today has come to us through one of these sources. The Encyclopaedia Britannica speaks truly when it says that “the Book of Common Prayer has influenced or enriched the liturgical language of most English-speaking Protestant churches.”

Influenced or enriched? These are not quite the same thing. Without doubt our liturgical language has been enriched by the lyrical beauty of the KJV, especially those portions drawn from the Psalms. But what of the historic prayers that we borrowed directly from the BCP? Did these enrich us, or have they “influenced” us in a way that is decidedly un-Lutheran? To answer that question, a brief history of the BCP is in order.

Early Edition of the Book of Common Prayer

The first edition of the BCP, published in 1549 under the supervision of Thomas Cranmer, had a distinctly Lutheran influence. Cranmer, himself a moderate, followed the conservative principle of the German reformers in attempting to retain what was good and salutary from the Church’s tradition. Cranmer’s translations of the historic Latin collects are also extraordinarily beautiful, demonstrating his mastery of the English language.

But a series of revisions to the BCP from 1552 to 1662 radically altered its contents in accord with Calvinist theology. The comfort of the pure Gospel was overshadowed by a new emphasis on Puritanical legalism. These alterations in the Anglican world had little effect on Lutherans, who were busy doing Lutheran things (or maybe being Pietists) in Germany and Scandinavia. But this changed after Lutherans came to the United States and then switched, almost overnight, to worshipping in English.

Did we do what the Reformers had done and carefully translate the the historic Propers from the original languages into the local tongue? There was no time for that. Our people needed an English hymnal now—goodness, they were already singing Methodist hymns. Thankfully, the Anglicans had a masterful English translation of the Bible. They also had Calvinist-approved renditions of the historic collects. Well, beggars can’t be choosers. We borrowed both.

The Lutheran Hymnal (1941)

Now, to be fair, though the volunteers for The Lutheran Missal have sorted through 70,000 Latin prayers of Western Christendom, we haven’t yet compared every historic collect with the Anglican renderings that made their way, generally word for word, into our worship via The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH, 1941). Nor have we looked closely at Lutheran Service Book’s (LSB, 2006) alterations of these collects. Perhaps the yeast of Calvinism did not work its way through the whole loaf. In fact, at this present time, I have only fully traced the history of one collect, selected at random from the Sundays after Trinity. But let us consider the story this one collect tells.

Collect for Trinity 10: Augsburg 1510

Cranmer’s translation of the historic Latin collect for Trinity 10 is both faithful and beautiful:

“God, which declarest thy almighty power, most chiefly in showing mercy and pity; Give unto us abundantly thy grace, that we, running to thy promises, may be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Collect for Trinity 10: Book of Common Prayer, 1549

This decidedly Lutheran, nay, Evangelical Catholic collect appeared as written above in the first several editions of the BCP. Unfortunately, some years later, while most of the Puritans were busy removing the head from King Charles I, others were removing the Gospel from this collect. In the 1662 printing of the BCP, it reads thus:

O God, who declares thy almighty power most chiefly in showing mercy and pity; Mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we, running the way of thy commandments, may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord…

(emphasis mine)
Book of Common Prayer, 1662

Massey H. Shepherd, twentieth-century Episcopal priest and liturgical scholar, remarks unfavorably on the revision:

In translating this Gelasian [c. 750 AD] Collect the 1662 revisers made changes that altered the sense. The ending originally read: ‘that we running to thy promises, may be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure.’ The alteration gives the Collect a legalistic overtone, making salvation a future reward for obedience rather than the present possession of a free gift; God’s gift of mercy becomes a well-earned prize, not an immediate proffer. The revision also distorts the striking metaphor of the original Latin—the picture of men running in haste to receive what is freely offered them. We should also not miss the illuminating statement of the preamble, namely, that the almighty power of God is shown chiefly, not in His lordship and sovereign providence over creation, but in His redemptive love and mercy…”

The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, 1950

At least one Episcopalian (since deceased) recognized what the Lutherans missed with the printing of TLH. To their credit, the editors of LSB also seemed to have noticed that something was amiss. They removed the most offensive clause from the collect, but sadly, did not restore the original metaphor of men running to the offered means of grace.

O God, You declare Your almighty power above all in showing mercy and pity. Mercifully grant us such a measure of Your grace that we may obtain Your gracious promises and be made partakers of Your heavenly treasures; through Jesus Christ…

Lutheran Service Book, 2006

We can hardly fault LSB for this shortcoming, its editors not having at their fingertips, as we now do, the recorded prayers of the greater part of Western Christendom.

As the editors of The Lutheran Missal work through the historic collects, we will most certainly pay close attention to Cranmer’s original translations as found in the first edition of the BCP, comparing these to the original Latin and the German translations of the Reformers. It is our hope that we can cleanse the historic collects from the remaining vestiges of Calvinistic corruption while restoring some of the lost beauty of the originals. And perhaps we will discover, as the rich confession of the Gospel in the Trinity 10 collect suggests, that the ancient church fathers who penned these treasures may have been Evangelical Catholics all along.

Reminder: If you haven’t done so already, please consider enrolling as a field tester for the lectionary.

Field Testing: Beginning in Advent 2022

One of the questions we hear most frequently is this: “When can we expect the missal to be published?” We understand—you, like each one of us, are anxious to have a completed book in your hands, so that you can set it on your missal stand, open it up, and simply pray the prayers and read the readings without worrying about which option is the historic one, or stressing about what you’re supposed to do for your midweek service.

This is your opportunity to help us along the next step of the process—by volunteering to field test the temporal lectionary for The Lutheran Missal.

What is required of field testers?

We ask that you commit to following the lectionary for a full year (in whatever services you offer, whether on Sunday mornings or every day of the year) and provide feedback after reading and preaching on the texts.

How will this work?

Beginning in early November, we will publish electronic versions of all the texts for the temporal lectionary and its principal feasts. These will be formatted so that they can be printed out or copied into your regular bulletins. Every Sunday afternoon we will send an email requesting your feedback (if any) for the previous week, as well as providing notes on the texts for the upcoming week.

How does this compare to the LSB One-Year Lectionary?

  • The traditional weekday lectionary has been restored, which provides readings for nearly every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year, for each of the forty days of Lent, for the octaves of Easter and Pentecost, and for the four sets of Ember Days. Even if your parish doesn’t observe these days with services, you are still welcome to read through the appointed texts and offer feedback.
  • The Sunday Epistles and Gospels remain largely unchanged. Where LSB has provided more than one Epistle, we will provide only the historic pericope. Likewise, when LSB adjusts the beginning or ending  of a lection without support from earlier sources, the more traditional cutting will be preferred.
  • The traditional lections for Christmas Dawn and Day, while appearing largely intact in the LSB Three-Year Lectionary, were changed in the LSB One-Year Lectionary. These have been restored.
  • The Prophecies (Old Testament readings) for Sundays, though not historic, are nevertheless retained. The Prophecies appointed in LSB are generally thoughtfully chosen and well-suited to the day, and The Lutheran Missal largely follows these selections. It was, however, deemed necessary to make a substitution in some cases. For example, while LSB appoints Malachi 4:1-6 as the Prophecy for Advent II, it is properly a part of the historic Epistle for Wednesday of the same week. As a result, the Malachi reading was retained in its historic position and a new Prophecy was provided for Advent II.
  • All supplied texts and bulletin inserts are from the NKJV rather than ESV. (It is not necessary to use the NKJV to be a field tester.)

Where do I sign up?

Click this link to add your name to the list of field testers. Alternatively, you may send an email to You will receive the introductory email in mid-November with a link to all the texts for the year.

Please share this invite with any others who may be interested in field testing. You may download this post as a one-page PDF which can be emailed or printed.

70,000 Prayers Sorted!

In September of 2021, I put up a short video explaining the task of sorting through the 50,000 prayers we had amassed from about 50 sources. Since that time we expanded our scope by another 25 dioceses from the Holy Roman Empire, the Baltics, Scandinavia, and a few other sources we deemed important. This brought the total number of collects up to more than 70,000.

Thirteen months later, this huge task is finally complete (it took almost two years in total). Unlike the Scripture readings, which come from the relatively stable text of the Vulgate, the text of a given prayer is much more liable to vary from one missal to the next. For example, the collect Pasti cibo spiritalis…consequamur, chiefly for St. Mark, was found with 13 variations across 35 sources (see the Incipit column below). Though the variations begin (and also end) with three different words, each belongs to the same collect (see the Text column).

Collect for St. Mark and others

We used the ten-volume Corpus Orationum (hereafter, CO) and its catalog of over 7,600 collects of the Western Church as the standard for our table of unique collects. Of the 4,089 individual collects that we identified, 2,500 aligned with the CO. (Missals contain a great many collects not found in the prayerbooks used by the compilers of the CO.) Our colleagues in Hungary plan to submit the remaining 1,500 for publication as an appendix to the CO.

In order to use the CO as the basis for identifying the collects, it was necessary to scan and perform OCR on all ten volumes. I am indebted to Mr. Eric Fattig for his tireless assistance during this phase of the project.

Once the CO had been converted to a searchable table, the sorting of collects began. We tackled them according to starting letter (collects that begin with A, etc…). Seminarian Conner Walts, then a senior at Indiana State University, had arranged with the university to serve as an official intern for The Lutheran Missal. He continued in this capacity unofficially after the semester’s end, working his way through half of the alphabet. Pastor Andrew Harris and Mr. Noah Vancina also made significant contributions. (Don’t be fooled by the letter D—one of every five collects begins with the word Deus.)

List of Contributors (by starting letter)

Now that all the Latin collects have been matched up, our software can present the data to our editors in a visual way, as shown below.

In this example from Trinity 10, there is a 2 to 1 majority for Deus qui omnipotentiam, which is the older, more established tradition for this day. The other collect, Pateant aures, more properly belongs to Trinity 11. (The minority sources follow a Roman innovation that shifted some, but not all, of the Trinitytide propers back a week. Perhaps Fr. Stefan will write something on the Trinity Schism in a future post.)

What’s next for the collects? Now that we can easily identify the historic tradition for each occasion, we will compare existing translations of the collects, such as TLH and the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, with the original Latin, paying special attention to any evangelical corrections made by the Reformers. Thankfully, we won’t need to translate all 4,089 unique collects—many of which are heretical. It was necessary to sort through all of these collects, but now we need only pay attention to those that will appear in the occasions of The Lutheran Missal.

Advent I: An Example of the Editing Process

Last October the editors of The Lutheran Missal began work on the lections for the Temporal Calendar. With the data from nearly seventy sources—ancient, late-medieval, and Lutheran—at our fingertips, we were finally ready to make informed choices about our own missal. For those who are interested in our editing process, the first week of Advent serves as an excellent example.

Advent I: Gospel
The screen above presents our editors with the results of all the data we have collected as it pertains to the Gospel reading for Ad Te Levavi. Of the sixty-eight sources that weigh in here (bottom left of above image), all but three prescribe Matthew 21. These three, Sion c. 1420, Liber Usualis 1961, and SBH 1958 can be safely ignored as outliers. The real question then concerns the ending point of the reading from Matthew 21. Fifty-six sources end partway through verse 9 with, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” Only a few continue to the end of the verse: “Hosanna in the highest!” But these few are all Lutheran sources, as shown at the bottom of the map below:

Since we are creating a Lutheran missal, the editors choose to follow the Lutheran sources and include all of verse 9. Notwithstanding the additional four words added by the Lutherans, this pericope from Matthew 21 has been read by the Church on Advent I for over twelve-hundred years.

Advent 1: Epistle
The attestation for the Epistle is even more straightforward, with every source giving Romans 13. But once again, the Lutherans extend the ancient pericope to the end of the verse, finishing with the words, “and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” The Lutherans of old, it would seem, had no problem ending with the Law. Neither do the editors of The Lutheran Missal.

Advent 1: Prophecy (Old Testament)
Historically speaking, only a few occasions in the Temporal Calendar have more than two readings. Where additional lections are present (usually from the Old Testament), they are called the Prophecy. For example, each mass on Christmas Day has one Prophecy, Ember Saturdays have five, and the Easter Vigil has up to twelve.

Though it was not always this way, Lutherans today generally expect to hear three readings on a Sunday morning. This is a very recent tradition, but certainly not one that is contrary to the Gospel or offensive to liturgical propriety. The Lutheran Missal will provide a Prophecy for every Sunday of the Temporal Calendar and for those feasts of the saints that may supplant a Sunday.

Only three recent hymnals among our sources give a Prophecy: TLH 1941, SBH 1958, and LSB 2006. Though none have the same reading, all are from Jeremiah.

LSB’s selection, from Jeremiah 23, is to be preferred. It was not originally read as a Prophecy on Advent I. However, the pericope does appear as an “Epistle” (the reading preceding the Gospel) in over sixty sources at the end of the Church Year—paired with the Feeding of the Five Thousand from John 6. When the Lutheran Reformers revised the end of the Church Year, replacing Trinity 25 (Last Sunday) with Trinity 25, 26, and 27 (Last Sunday), the John 6 reading (also read on Lent 4) was eclipsed by the Parable of the Ten Virgins, and Jeremiah 23 disappeared from the lectionary. The editors of LSB did well to choose this lection, historically attached to the End/Beginning of the Church Year, as the Prophecy for Advent I.

Advent 1, Wednesday: Gospel
Matthew 3:1–6 is attested as the Wednesday Gospel by nearly 50 sources, with Sarum being the only exception. (This is, perhaps, an example of why Lutherans should not blindly follow the Sarum use. It may be a fine tradition, but it is not ours.)

Advent 1, Wednesday: Epistle
Every source gives James 5, beginning at verse 7. There was, however, some minor confusion about the ending point. The editors of TLM easily agreed to follow the majority consensus, which included two ancient sources (Murbach and Alcuin) and the Lutheran Magdeburg 1613.

Advent 1, Friday: Gospel and Epistle
Fifty sources provide a Gospel for Friday (all in agreement except Sarum, once again), but only twenty-eight give an Epistle. (This is typical for the Friday Epistle. About half of the sources simply reread Sunday’s Epistle.)

For the first time, we are presented with two distinct traditions: the southern majority for Titus 2 (17 sources), and the northeast corner for Zechariah 9 (5 sources).

As editors we are not simply in the business of “counting noses.” We must consider, among other things, the sources themselves and the content and pairing of the texts. The northeast dioceses are clearly a minority in this case, but they do carry extra weight for us Lutherans, as they are the birthplace of the Reformation. At least one member of the editors has a particularly strong attachment to these sources.

However, it was the content of the Epistles that swayed our decision. Zechariah 9, the minority tradition, is quoted in Sunday’s Gospel: “Behold, your king comes to you…” Certainly, it would be appropriate to read the original prophecy later in the week. But the majority tradition, Titus 2:1–10, pairs beautifully with Friday’s Gospel.

In Luke 3 the people come to John the Baptist, asking, “What shall we do?” John’s answers to the people, tax collectors, and soldiers read like a Table of Duties. Likewise, in Titus 2, St. Paul gives direction to older men, older women, young women, young men, and bondservants. Yes, we could revisit Sunday’s theme of Jesus, the lowly king, riding into Jerusalem upon a humble donkey. But it seemed better to the editors to allow Friday of Ad Te Levavi to stand on its own with a particular focus within the season of Advent: “Bear fruits worthy of repentance, [such as…]”

The decisions surrounding the lections for Advent I provide something of a window into the thinking of the editors. If there is sufficient interest, a less verbose summary of our work on the Temporal Lectionary could be compiled from our minutes and made publicly available. Please feel free to comment or ask questions here, on Facebook, or via email.

Dominica Palmarum

As the perennials emerge from the ground around this time each year, so too questions concerning the reading of the St. Matthew Passion on Palm Sunday. Should the entire Passion be read or only Matthew’s account of the Triumphal Entry? Does the lengthy Passion reading infringe on the theme of Palm Sunday? Was the Passion moved to Palm Sunday because of infrequent attendance at mid-week services?

The answer to this last question is a simple and definitive “no.” Far from being a recent innovation meant to counter waning attendance, the reading of the St. Matthew Passion on the Sunday before Easter is an ancient custom observed almost universally by the Western Church as far back as the fifth century (Jerome c. 471).

The Procession of the Palms with the reading of the Triumphal Entry is a separate rite that developed some centuries later. (Many dioceses were fond of beginning the mass with an entry procession. Over time, as might be expected, some of these processions grew more elaborate, accumulating propers of their own. My colleague, Fr. Stefan, has an excellent piece on the history and Lutheran adaption of the Palm Sunday Rite.) By the dawn of the Reformation, the Palm Procession and the Mass were customarily observed back to back, each with its respective Gospel reading. The fact that the Sunday before Easter had by this time come to be called Dominica Palmarum illustrates the Palm Rite’s tendency to overshadow the Passion, not vice versa.

Given that the Passion reading is the proper Gospel text for the chief service of Palm Sunday (Magdeburg 1613 being a notable exception among the Lutheran sources), is there any historic precedent for omitting the Passion and reading the Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21) in its place? Why, yes, there is. The 1510 missal from the diocese of Augsburg gives this delightful rubric immediately before the Palm Sunday mass:

Augsburg 1510

Roughly translated, the rubric instructs, “But note: if the priest, by reason of debilitation, is not able to read the Passion, then [Matthew 21] may be read instead, and the Passion of the Lord omitted.” Those pastors looking for a reason to skip the Passion reading this coming Palm Sunday now have a legitimate and historical reason to do so, but only—I hasten to add—insofar are they willing to admit to a state of debilitation. Otherwise, my counsel, based on the overwhelming consensus of fifteen centuries of church history, is simply to man up and read the Passion. Debilitation aside, there is hardly a more fitting way to begin Holy Week.

Why German Sources?

In the early days of The Lutheran Missal project, when we first began to catalogue the contents of the late-medieval missals, we choose to limit our scope to the German dioceses. These sources, show in blue below, roughly correspond with the territory of present-day Germany (outlined in green).

Several months ago, as we began editing the temporal calendar for The Lutheran Missal, we concluded that it was necessary to expand our sources into some of the surrounding areas. Though not within the borders of modern Germany, these dioceses were part of the German cultural sphere of influence, a.k.a. the Holy Roman Empire. We also added the arch-dioceses of Scandinavia and the English diocese of Salisbury (Sarum) for the sake of reference. The “expansion” sources are shown below in light brown. The map also includes four ancient lectionaries (bottom left), the earliest of which is believed to have been compiled in 471 AD, and the Lutheran sources (bottom right).

This map, which happens to show the division between our original German sources and the expansion sources, was not actually intended for that purpose. It is a representation of the Gospel reading for Epiphany 4. There are only two options, and each is widely attested: Matthew 8 (blue) and Luke 8 (light brown).

At first glance it might appear as though there are two conflicting lectionary traditions for this day, but a closer look would reveal that these passages are parallel accounts of the same event: the Calming of the Sea. This typifies that, though regional variations do exist, the attestation of the historic lectionary is surprisingly harmonious.

There is no doubt that the Calming of the Sea is the Gospel reading for Epiphany 4, but from which gospel? Matthew’s account is clearly to be preferred, as it has the witness of the most ancient sources (bottom left), the unanimous consensus of the late-medieval German dioceses, and the added witness of the early and late Lutherans.

Although not every case is as clear cut as the example above, it does illustrate and support our rationale for giving preference to the German-area dioceses: they are generally more aligned with both the ancient manuscripts and the post-Reformation Lutheran sources.

Additional Assisting Editors

Today we officially welcome two assisting editors to The Lutheran Missal, both of whom have substantially contributed to the project over the past two or three years.

The Reverend Andrew Harris has served as pastor of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Clinton, WI, since graduating from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne in 2018. Prior to that, he studied at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon, Wisconsin. He is married to Olivia and together they have three wonderful children.

Dr. Jonathan Wessler is the kantor and organist at First Lutheran Church in Boston, MA, having previously studied at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the University of Notre Dame, and the Eastman School of Music. He and his wife Joy have three school-age children. Jonathan’s life revolves around music according to the liturgical calendar. In addition, he plans and organizes concert series and Bach Vespers services, conducts the church choir, and still finds time to add other accomplishments to his slate.

Pr. Harris and Dr. Wessler have labored tirelessly on The Lutheran Missal for the past two years and are currently assisting in the editing of the temporal lectionary (which is nearly complete). It is long overdue that they be officially introduced and welcomed to the project.

Internship for The Lutheran Missal
This semester we also welcome Conner Walts, a pre-sem student and senior at Indiana State University. In the last year, Conner was chiefly responsible for adding Würzburg c. 700 and Murbach c. 800, the two oldest extant Western lectionaries to our database.

By special arrangement with the Indiana State University, Conner is now serving an official internship for The Lutheran Missal. In addition to other duties, Conner records the minutes for our weekly editors’ sessions. If anyone else is interested in a similar internship, Conner would be happy to explain how he worked out the arrangement with his university. Email him at c o n n e r . w a l t s @ a t t . n e t