1 February 2018

Whatever happened to Genesis?

In 1549, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer placed, in the Preface to his English Book of Common Prayer, the following complaint (borrowed from Cardinal Quinones) about the pre-Reformation Liturgy: "... commonly, when any book of the Bible was begun, after three or four chapters were read out, all the rest were unread. And in this sort the book of Isaiah was begun in Advent, and the book of Genesis in Septuagesima; but they were only begun, and never read through ..."

And it remained the aim of the Church of England through four centuries to provide its clergy and laity with what the Second Vatican Council was later to call a "ditior  mensa verbi Dei" so that "praestantior pars Scripturarum Sanctarum populo legatur". These words echo those of Cranmer: "all the whole Bible or the greatest part thereof". More Scripture; most of the Bible. That is the good news. The bad news is that Cranmer went about providing for the greatly enlarged diet of Scripture which the Church of England was to have by distributing the books of the Bible according to the Civil Calendar. Thus Genesis started at the beginning of January, and Scripture marched relentlessly on, almost entirely ignoring Lent and Easter (even Good Friday and Easter Day did not have a complete provision proper to the Day). Every year, on March 31, you got the same readings, whether it was Sunday or weekday, fast or festival, Holy Week or Easter Week.

The Catholic Revival in the Church of England led to a recovery, first among the Tractarians and then, eventually, in the church at large, of the old sense of the distinctiveness of the Christian seasons. And so, once again, Genesis began to be read on Septuagesima Sunday, as first ordered by S Gregory the Great on the eve of the Conversion of England a millennium and a half before. This process of restoration started in 1871, when Genesis was restored to the Gesima Sundays. And in 1922 a new lectionary completed that process by rolling out Genesis also onto the weekdays from Septuagesima; and that lectionary remains still legally available for use in the Church of England. It appeared in the Prayer Book which the synodical organs of the Church of England approved in 1928; and in 1961 an improved revision of it was authorised (although that particular authorisation has now lapsed). Various provinces adopted its main lines, even reputedly 'Evangelical' provinces like Ireland and Canada. The Scottish Prayer Book of 1929 did not adopt the English lectionary, but made its own ... with Genesis locked onto Septuagesima. This had become the consensus of informed Anglicanism. With one oddity*, this arrangement survived into the Alternative Service Book, which took the Church of England through to the end of the millennium.

I wonder what has happened to Genesis in the lectionaries which, I presume, are authorised for use in the American and Australian Ordinariates. Does either of them authorise the fine old English Lectionary of 1961?
*The oddity in the ASB was that Sunday Office readings started Genesis on the Ninth Sunday Before Christmas, because of the whimsical invention of a Creation Etcetera Season. This Brilliant Idea never endeared itself to anybody. But ... curiously ... as far as weekdays were concerned, Genesis still began in the ASB on (the Monday after) Septuagesima (renamed the Ninth Sunday Before Easter).


Tom B. said...

Father, the North American ordo (www.ordinariate.net/ordo) does indeed follow the 1961 English Lectionary.

the Savage said...

Fr. Hunwicke, I am surprised that you did not know, since I presume that they got the idea from your own excellent Ordo, that Ordinariates of the Chair of Saint Peter and and of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, both use the 1961 Church of England Table of Lessons, with the reading of Genesis in course commencing on Septuagesima Sunday. They can be found here:



The Australian Ordo is a truly beautiful affair containing all of the collects and other seasonal material found in the Divine Worship Missal, but unfortunately is only published for the current month.

Also highly commended is the Morning and Evening Prayer site maintained here: http://prayer.covert.org/

It contains the complete texts for Morning and Evening Prayer (and also Mid-Day Prayer and Compline) according the the practices of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (largely based on the US 1928 BCP) , including the Psalms in the 30 day cycle, and all the texts from the Ordinariate Ordo.

Paterdorf said...

The 2018 Ordo for the American Ordinariate indicates that the lessons to be used for the office are to be taken from the 1961 Revised Table of Lessons as adapted to the CSP's Kalendar.

Thank you for the history lesson! Very helpful for understanding the logic behind the sequence of readings.

Woody said...

It looks like the Ordo for the OCSP starts Genesis on Setuagesima also. A random sampling suggests that the Ordinariate has adopted the 1928 UK Proposed BCP lectionary for the office.

Brian M said...
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Jon said...


It appears, from what I can see anyway, that the reading of Genesis does indeed begin on Septuagesima Sunday in the American Ordo, but at Mattins, not in the Mass. The Mass readings are the same as the Novus Ordo Lectionary.


It's the same Down Under.


bill said...

The 1962 Canadian lectionary is preserved by the OCSP in the not yet, but almost, authorized edition of the Office.

Brian M said...

Father, please note from 28 January onwards:

Fr. Matthew Venuti said...

Yes, OCSP uses the 1961 lectionary. Check out the Ordo at https://ordinariate.net/documents/2018/1/180105_Ordo.pdf

Fr. Matthew Venuti said...

Yes, OCSP uses the wonderful 1961 lectionary. The Ordo is here: https://ordinariate.net/documents/2018/1/180105_Ordo.pdf

Tom B. said...

How almost are we talking? We've been waiting on Rome for well over a year with no news. In fact, Bishop Lopes recently urged everyone to say a Hail Mary for the special intention of finally securing the CDW and CDF approvals for the draft they have been sitting on.

Tom B. said...

The fact that the Australian ordo includes the proper collects is fantastic! I have been a little miffed at having no access to the proper collects of memorials, and would always have to celebrate a ferial office unless it was Feast or above. I see that they also have proper Ben & Mag antiphons for feasts and Sundays... This is great! I hope our own OCSP takes a hint.

Brian M said...

the full Australian ordo can be found at http://www.ordinariate.org.au/resources/ordo-2018-full-year/

Unknown said...

I know that this is an old thread, but I have a question about the Daily Office Lectionary. How effective is it really.

There seems to me to be two main defects to a Daily Office Lectionary that follows the Church Year.

1. There are liturgical days and weeks that are only very rarely used. Examples are the Friday after the Fourth Sunday in Advent, the Sixth Sunday After Epiphany, and the 27th Week after Trinity Sunday. If some portion of Scripture is assigned to these days or weeks then they will almost never be read. But the desire to "distribute" the greater amount of Holy Scripture throughout the year and the "need" to fill in every possible liturgical day will move the authors of such a lectionary to put some part of Scripture into these weeks that are then not often read. And then their first goal is not effectively met.

2. Readings for solemnities and feasts interrupt the course reading. If the lectionary in question has specific readings for Sundays, then your course reading is in interrupted even more.

Of course, if you opt for a lectionary based on the fixed day solar calendar then you have the same problem when readings for significant feasts based on the Paschal Cycle coincide with the ordinary course readings.

I have really tried to make these Lectionaries which follow the Church Year work. But in frustration I have given up thinking there is really one only perpetual calendar lectionary that can work for all people and all communities all the time. Each person and community has different goals and needs. If one's desire is to actually read the Holy Scriptures in their entirety as complete intergal works and to ingest the greater amount of the whole Bible then these lectionaries just don't work.

I have been trying to work out a system whereby your course readings would be contained in around 300 days of lessons but these are not assigned to any particular days of the solar year or the paschal cycle weeks. Rather, they fill in between the feasts and solemnities that have their own readings. These special readings populate the year in advance based on the Temporale and Sanctorale calendars and the rules of the Table of Precedence. The main body of the lectionary, the course readings, fill in between these "interruptions." The benefit to this is that no readings are ever completely "skipped." And you could so order the course readings so that Genesis begins in the first half of February, roughly equivalent to Septuagesima. It isn't perfect but it accomplishes the goal of reading all the lessons in a lectionary and never skipping any.

What have your experiences been concerning these things? Do you like the Daily Office Lectionary? Does it bother you that lessons are completely skipped or that readings in a particular book of the Bible are read erratically and sporadically?