What happened after Malachi?

It’s a classic Sunday School question in evangelical churches when learning about the books of the Bible – “what happened after Malachi?”  Nearly four centuries pass between the last regular prophet, Malachi, and the forerunner of the Christ, St. John the Baptist.  What happened during that time?  Why is the Bible silent about it?

Well, the Bible isn’t entirely silent.  The Church has always had at least two books specifically devoted to relating some of the key historical events between Malachi and the Gospels: 1 and 2 Maccabees.  They cover only a specific 50-year stretch (roughly 175-135 B.C.) but relate some critical goings-on that provide the social, cultural, historical, and even political set-up for making sense of what’s going on in Judea in the 1st century.  Only in the past couple centuries have these books fallen out of Protestant attentions – the King James Bible (like Luther’s German Bible, and probably others) included these books as an appendix between the Old and New Testaments.  For economic reasons, many publishers started omitting those middle books once mass printing picked up speed in the 18th century, such that by the 20th and 21st centuries now, hardly any Protestant Christian is aware of them, let alone familiar with their contents.

If you want to learn more about those books, I have an introductory video and links to a few written articles here.  For now let’s just focus on 1 & 2 Maccabees, which our lectionary is about to start sampling in Evening Prayer.  1 Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew, but survives primarily in Greek, and gives us a lengthy 50-year history of the struggles between the Hellenistic kingdom and the Jews.  2 Maccabees was originally written in Greek, meant to summarize another source (probably working off of something much like 1 Maccabees), and gives us a closer look at the events surrounding the desecration and purification of the Temple.

In a general sense, 1 Maccabees is more historically-minded, giving more information, covering more years, providing less religious commentary.  2 Maccabees is more religious in nature, summarizing events with an eye to exhortation to faithfulness to God.  They work together not unlike how 2 Samuel – 2 Kings play off 1 & 2 Chronicles: a lot of overlap providing different emphases.  The following table shows how the two books line up.

maccabees parallel

Our lectionary does not walk through the entirety of either book, but steps through a few highlights.  (To read them in full would be a significantly more lengthy process, and, for many readers, a great deal more tedious.)  From October 9th through 18th we cover:

  • 1 Macc. 1 = the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes and his profaning of the Temple (the “abomination of desolation”)
  • 1 Macc. 2 = the uprising of Mattathias and his sons
  • 2 Macc. 6 = the violent suppression of Judaism
  • 2 Macc. 7 = a specific story of martyrdom at the hands of the Greeks
  • 2 Macc. 8 = Judas Maccabeus takes his father’s place and continues the good fight
  • 2 Macc. 10 = the purification of the Temple (origin of Hanukkah)
  • 1 Macc. 7 = the next round of Greek invasion and suppression of Judaism
  • 1 Macc. 9 = the death of Judas Maccabeus and succession of Jonathan
  • 1 Macc. 13 = the death of Jonathan and succession of Simon
  • 1 Macc. 14 = the final peace established by treaty under Simon’s leadership

If you have time, it’s worth exploring these books in full, to get the whole story.  There are a lot of new names and places to keep track of (from the perspective of one unused to this period of history), but the benefits can be great.  The entanglements between Jewish authorities and Rome, for example, find their beginning here.  When you realize that the Romans helped save the Jews from the Greeks, and supported Judean independence, it sheds new rays of light on the relationship between the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate in the Gospels!

Book Review: The Lutheran Service Book

Welcome to Saturday Book Review time!  On most of the Saturdays this year we’re looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value.  Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.

It’s been a couple weeks but we left off with a couple non-Anglican liturgical books, and today we’re picking that trend back up again with The Lutheran Service Book (2006), which is basically the official liturgical text for the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS).

This book is basically a Prayer Book and Hymnal in one, which is super handy.  What’s strange about it, from an Anglican perspective, is the ordering of its contents.

Introductory Contents:
Church Year, Sunday & Holy Day lectionaries, Dates of Easter, Glossary, instructions for chanting psalms

Most of this makes sense to us, the only oddity is that the Sunday / Holy Day lectionaries are placed up front with the calendar – historically that’s where we would have the Daily Office Lectionary, though the 2019 BCP has all its lectionaries toward the back instead.

Interestingly, this book includes two choices for the Calendar and Sunday lectionary: one is their version of the 3-year Revised Common Lectionary (essentially the same as ours, only minor differences), and the other is the traditional one-year calendar and lectionary (essentially the same as in the classical Prayer Books).  Although I’m not surprised the 2019 Prayer Book didn’t provide both calendar & lectionary options, I kind of wish it had.

The chanting instructions make sense here because the first primary section of this book is:

The Psalms

Yes, all 150 are here, and they’re even pointed for chant!  For example, from Psalm 15:

O Lord, who shall sojourn | in your tent? *
Who shall dwell on your | holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does | what is right *
and speaks truth | in his heart.

So that’s pretty useful.  The chant style is very similar to Simplified Anglican Chant, which is great.  Functionally it’s strange that the psalter should be put first like this: this means that you “have to know” where the right worship service starts in the book, increasing the necessary page-flipping.  But in another sense, giving the Psalms place of preference is a theological statement: this is where our worship begins.  Virtually every worship service in the liturgical tradition utilizes the psalms, and biblically they are our greatest model for faithful prayer.

The Divine Service

The next nearly-60 pages are taken up with five “Settings” of the Divine Service, or Holy Communion.  “They have five different eucharistic texts!?” you ask.  Yes.  But they are all extremely similar to one another.

The primary difference between the order of service here and in the 2019 Prayer Book is that this starts with a confession and absolution, rather than placing it after the Prayers of the People.  Setting One’s confession prayer in particular is clearly based upon our confession in the Daily Office.  For the Creed, both the Nicene and Apostles’ are offered.  Two sequences of Communion Prayers are typically offered, one placing the Words of Institution before the Lord’s Prayer, and the other after.  In general, the style and wording of the prayers – particularly the Communion prayers – progress from traditional to contemporary as you look through from Setting One to Setting Five; the last of which sounds the most like the 1979 Prayer Book.

Another fascinating, and consistent, feature of the Lutheran liturgy is the use of the Canticle Nunc dimittis as a Post-Communion praise, just like how the classical Prayer Books employed the Gloria in excelsis.  This has prompted and encouraged me to explore different Canticle options after the administration of Holy Communion in my own church’s worship services, rather than always simply employing a Communion Hymn.

Another curiosity, perhaps marking the most obvious distinction between the five Settings, is the music.  Settings One through Four each have a particular collection of Service Music printed right into them.  This is useful for those who desire to use them, though a bit odd from my observing perspective, as it ties you to particular combinations of musical settings with the variations of prayers.  I assume it’s permissible for them to mix and match text and music, but it just seems an odd way of printing it.  Whateverso, the range of styles are interesting: different forms of chant (some like plainchant, some like Anglican Chant, including the Old Scottish Chant of the Gloria in Setting Three).  Setting Five has no music printed in it, though, preferring the simplicity of spoken liturgy, and indicating a few hymns to sing in place of the standard Kyrie and GloriaSanctus and Agnus Dei.

The Daily Offices

Where the Daily Offices hold pride of place in Anglican Prayer Books, the Lutheran Service Book starts them on page 219, after the Communion settings.  These, too, include musical settings of various Canticles and Psalms right in the text, as well as other chanted parts for the dialogues and blessings and whatnot.  Five Offices are provided: Matins, Vespers, Morning Prayer, Evening Payer, and Compline.  Again this is a “huh?” moment for Anglicans, as Matins & Vespers are the Morning & Evening Offices.

As it turns out, Matins and Morning Prayer are very similar in this book, containing largely the same elements.  Like the Communion Settings, the music and chant is the most obvious difference between the two,   Matins is the most like the Prayer Books’ Morning Prayer; the Morning Prayer in this book lacks the Te Deum and rearranges the prayers after the Canticle.

None of these offices include Confessions or the Apostles’ Creed, which is another difference between this book and our tradition.

Vespers and Evening Prayer are similar to one another, but start markedly different: Vespers more resembling the Prayer Book tradition, and Evening Prayer starting off with that curious “Service of Lights” thing in the 1979 Prayer Book.

Compline is very similar to as it is found in modern Anglican Prayer Books.  I assume, since it was not taken up in most Protestant liturgical books during the Reformation, that it saw the least amount of editing and change in unofficial use, such that when it started to reappear in the late 20th century it had undergone the least amount of denominational divergence.

Other Services and Resources

From here the book includes a collection of other liturgies that a Prayer Book would be expected to have: Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Funeral Service, Responsive Prayers, a Litany, Corporate and Private Confessions & Absolution, Daily Prayer for Families, a Daily Lectionary, table of Psalms for the Offices (though not covering the whole psalter or the whole year), Occasional Prayers, the Athanasian Creed, and Luther’s Small Catechism.  All this is comparable to what one would expect in an Anglican Prayer Book, and much of its contents are recognizably similar to our own.

The first “Other Service”, however, does not have an Anglican counterpart (unless you delve into England’s controversial Common Worship).  It’s called Service of Prayer and Preaching, and it seems to be a what-to-do-on-a-Sunday-morning-when-the-ordained-minister-is-away sort of service.  Opening Verses, an Old Testament Canticle (known to us as #8 Ecce Deus), Scripture readings, dialogued responses, a congregational reading from part of the catechism, Sermon or Catechetical Instruction, (Offertory) Hymn, several Prayers, a New Testament Canticle (known to us as the Pascha Nostrum), and a closing Blessing.

The Hymns

636 hymns follow, arranged by Church Season, Person & Work of Christ, the Christian Church, the Christian Life, other Times and Seasons, additional Service Music, and National Songs.  Naturally there are quite a lot more German Chorales here than in a typical Anglican hymnal (though the 2017 hymnal has quite a few!), and several hymns well-known to us with different arrangements – occasionally entirely different tune settings.  For example Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face is set to FARLEY CASTLE instead of PENITENTIA, and At the Lamb’s high feast we sing is set to SONNE DER GERECHTIGKEIT instead of SALZBURG (ALLE MENSCHEN).

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
Page-flipping within a particular worship service (especially the Sunday Communion) is minimal.  The main challenge is making sure you know what service you’re actually doing (five Communion rites, remember).  If you’re trying to use this for the Daily Office then things are rather more complex as you have to hunt for the lectionary and psalms with rather more vigor than a typical Anglican Prayer Book.

Devotional Usefulness: 3/5
This book is not the sum total the LCMS expression of Lutheran worship, but all the basics are here.  As Anglicans we could use this book and find a faithful approximation of our own liturgical tradition.  The Communion Prayers are all significantly shorter than ours (even shorter than what’s in the 1662 Prayer Book), but on the whole theologically compatible with ours.  The lack of clarity regarding daily psalmody would be a loss, however.  This book also has a nice collection of hymns that could supplement our own hymnals.  And to be fair, if I was a Lutheran, I’d rate this as either a or a 5, depending upon what I’d thereby know of the historic liturgies before this book.

Reference Value: 2/5
It’s hard to rate this score.  For most of us, we have no reason to pick up the liturgical text of a different tradition, even one so closely-related as the Lutherans.  The similarities of English-language Lutheran worship with Prayer Book worship also makes it clear that they have taken several queues from us.  As such, this Lutheran Service Book is probably best understood as an expression of historic Lutheran worship using the Anglican Prayer Book as a useful filter from time to time.  If you really want to explore historic Lutheran liturgy, you probably have to pick up the Book of Concord or something to that effect.  But I haven’t done that yet.

The Least-read book of the Bible?

Article VI famously lists the biblical canon for the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the “Other books” commonly called Apocrypha (for which I’ve taken preference to the particularly Anglican term Ecclesiastical Books).  Not every book listed in that third category has shown up in Anglican lectionaries.

  • Tobit, Judith, Wisdom (of Solomon), and Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) were read in full in the original Daily Office lectionary.  Our 2019 lectionary highlights the majority of those books, yet curiously and sadly omits Tobit entirely.
  • 1 & 2 Maccabees were not touched by the original Daily lectionary, but are very briefly sampled in the 2019 lectionary.
  • The additions to Esther and to Daniel were not originally included, but the former at least were always easy to add in as lengthened readings.  The 2019 lectionary includes one of the additions to Daniel (Susanna), and the Prayer Book tradition has always included another addition to Daniel (the Song of the Three Young Men) among its Morning Prayer canticles.
  • The Prayer of Manasseh, too, has in recent times been distilled into a canticle.
  • A few snippets of 2 Esdras (or 4 Ezra) have appeared in some 20th century Daily lectionaries, including the first draft (but not final copy) of the 2019’s.

That leaves 1 Esdras (or 2 or 3 Ezra) as the only one that isn’t used at all in Anglican liturgy, despite being listed as a canonical book in Article VI useful for reading and instruction.  The reason for this is the same as the reason why 1 & 2 Chronicles were omitted from the original Daily Office lectionary (and are still only sampled in the 2019) – because the vast majority of the book is redundant.  For the most part, 1 Esdras repeats the end of 2 Chronicles and the majority of the book of Ezra.

If you want to know more about this under-noticed book, watch on!

The Gospel lesson is in the evening now?

You may have noticed yesterday that the Gospel according to St. John started its second sequential read-through of the year in the evening, even though for most of the year so far the gospel lesson has been in the morning (and epistle in the evening).  You may be wondering why did it switch to the evening?

If you’re familiar with classical prayer books and their various daily lectionaries, this may be especially jarring.  The traditional pattern, with very few exceptions, is that the New Testament lessons in Morning Prayer are from the Gospels and from the Epistles in Evening Prayer.  If all you’ve know is the 1979, then maybe you’re still adapting from its weird daily lectionary and didn’t even notice that this little switch has taken place.

On one hand, the daily office lectionary in the 2019 prayer book represents a huge stride toward the style of the 1549/1552/1559/1662 daily lectionary.  But this treatment of the New Testament lessons is a surprising exception.  So let’s take a look at the logic behind this.  (I should be a good role model and cite my sources, but I don’t remember where I read all this, so you’ll just have to trust me on this.  Or look through the Prayer Book Q&A stuff yourself.)

How the original daily lectionary worked:

  • Most of the Old Testament and about half of the Ecclesiastical Books were read through, continuously, from Office to Office.  This meant you had to read Morning and Evening Prayer daily in order to keep up.
  • The Gospels and Acts were read through three full times in Morning Prayer.
  • The Epistles were read through three full times in Evening Prayer.  (Revelation was omitted.)

How the 2019 daily lectionary works:

  • Most of the books Genesis through Chronicles, plus extracts from three Ecclesiastical Books, is read through the year in Morning Prayer.
  • Most of the rest of the OT, and extracts from the Maccabees, is read through the year in Evening Prayer.
  • The New Testament is read once through the year in Morning Prayer.
  • Most of the New Testament is read once through the year in Evening Prayer.

The idea here is an accommodation to the reality that many individuals, not to mention churches, do not say the daily offices daily.  In the old lectionary, if you only say MP, or only EP, you’ll be reading every other chapter of the OT, and miss half of the NT entirely.  In the new one, basically the whole NT is covered in both offices, but in opposite orders (Gospels together, Epistles together).  That way if an individual or church has a pattern of only saying one office per day, the morning and evening “halves” of the lectionary can be turned into a two-year cycle to ensure that the most Bible coverage is attained.

The only downside to this plan, as far as I can tell, is that those who do read the whole lectionary in a year has to keep track of four continuous books at a time, instead of three.  But then again, if you’re spiritually disciplined enough and mature enough to be saying both offices every day (or almost every day), I guess you can probably handle tracking four books of the Bible in tandem.  I just hope you’ve got enough ribbons on your Bible! 😉

Reading 1 John in Eastertide

This evening we begin reading the epistle 1 John at Evening Prayer, and will go through it over the course of the whole week.  As I noted with 1 Peter a little while ago, this is an appropriate daily lectionary experience because it matches up with the Sunday Communion lectionary on one of the three years of its rotation.  It doesn’t match up perfectly in real time, of course, but the idea of reading 1 John in Eastertide is achieved both in Year B on Sundays and in the middle of May in daily Evening Prayer.

What makes 1 John an Easter-appropriate epistle such that it got assigned to this season in one year of the Communion lectionary?  In part, it’s an echo of the historic lectionary for Eastertide, which features 1 John and 1 Peter and James as the Epistle lessons through the season.  Digging deeper, the style of 1 John is very similar to the Gospel of St. John, which also gets heavy coverage in Eastertide and other major festal seasons and occasions throughout the year.  1 John has emphases on community, belonging, love, and release from sin, which all connect easily with the tradition of reading Acts in Eastertide, and the more general “result of the resurrection” frame of mind that this season is all about.

The opening prologue to 1 John also betray the unusual status of this book.  It is billed as an epistle of John but its writing style is much more like a homily or address.  Thus it makes for great reading and hearing but a far more difficult study than a more orderly epistle like those of St. Paul (at least in my opinion).  Despite the general challenge of making sense of how this book is structured and organized, the opening verses are one of my personal favorite passages of Scripture.

If you’d like a homily to accompany you in Evening Prayer today, here you go:

2 Peter and Jude Together

As you go through the Daily Office this week, you might notice something surprising about the Epistle readings in the evenings.  We just finished 1 Peter, we’re getting into 2 Peter, but next is not 1 John, but Jude!  The Epistles are almost finished… but why is Jude moved before John instead of read after like it’s found in the order of the New Testament in the Bible?

Part of the reason might be chronology – some of the Epistles are offered in our daily office lectionary according to the order in which they were written.  It is very likely that St. John’s epistles were written later in his life, post-dating pretty much the entire rest of the apostolic writings.

But most likely, in this case, Jude is read immediately after 2 Peter because they are very similar books.  For those who tend to be more “critical” of the biblical text, 2 Peter is sometimes looked upon as a “correction” to Jude.  Not a correction in that Jude was wrong, exactly; more a correction in that Jude makes some confusing and obscure references, and 2 Peter offers similar teachings with cleaner Old Testament references.

In its extremely brief length, the Epistle of Jude manages to make references to

  • the origin of demons: “that did not keep their own position” (v6)
  • Sodom and Gomorrah’s indulgence “in unnatural lust” (v7)
  • a dispute between the devil and Michael the Archangel over the body of Moses (v9)
  • a cited quote from the (very) apocryphal book of Enoch (v14-15)

Despite these difficult lines, Jude has two very popular texts, one at its beginning and one at its end:

I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

and

Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen.

The previous epistle, 2 Peter, contains a similar warning against false teachers and false brethren who practice immoralities, but does so without quite so many oblique references.  Chapter 2 references the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Baalam, and the steadfastness of God’s holy angels.  So when you get to reading Jude on Sunday, keep Friday’s reading from chapter 2 in mind.  The similarities will be very helpful.

Apart from that, 2 Peter has a few unique contributions regarding the eyewitness authority of the apostles, which in turn is subordinate to the witness of the Scriptures (cf. chapter 1); and also reiterates some of the points regarding suffering already covered in 1 Peter.

It’s helpful that these books are short, too, so that we can read through them in fairly rapid succession and be able to notice the connections between them.  Still, it’s a good thing our lectionary moves Jude up next to Peter!

Reading 1 Peter in Eastertide

This evening the Daily Office Lectionary begins its trek through the epistle 1 Peter.  As you may recall, 1 Peter is one of the three books that gets highlighted in the Epistle lesson slot during Eastertide in the Sunday Communion lectionary.  It’s kind of neat that we get to read this book in the month of May, either to reinforce or contextualize the Sunday readings if it’s that year, or giving us the book’s coverage on the years that don’t touch upon it on Sundays.

The First Epistle of St. Peter is a sobering book to read; it deals plainly with the subject of enduring persecution, noting that many churches in the region of Cappadocia have already begun to experience that.  As such, the letter looks keenly at the eschaton, the End of history, while acknowledging that the “Last Days” are already begun.  The letter also looks firmly back, at Jesus Christ, firmly grounding the Christian’s identity in the completed work of Christ.  Related to that, 1 Peter also contains one of the most strongly-worded teachings about Holy Baptism, if couched in one of the most difficult contexts in the entire New Testament.  It even makes space for ethical and pastoral instruction.

In Year A of the Sunday Communion lectionary, the suffering-related texts tend to get omitted.  It’s understandable, when choosing highlights to summarize the book in the Easter season. but still obviously a bit of a loss compared to the depth of the book itself.  So the Daily Office, here, is where we really get to dig into this (and every) book.  In an evangelical culture so used to focusing on the writings of St. Paul, a careful read of this book can be a refreshing perspective check.  Enjoy it!

Supplementary Midday Prayer Lectionary

Last week we looked at an option of filling out the book of Leviticus in a set of daily readings for Midday Prayer, for those who like to read every last page of Scripture.  You can revisit that post at this link.  Today, however, I am pleased to release the entire Supplementary Midday Prayer Lectionary.

Here it is in pdf form!

From the introductory and explanatory material:

The following lectionary is offered as a supplement to the Daily Office Lectionary.

Its first priority is to complete the portions of books omitted in Morning and Evening Prayer, including the books omitted in their entirety yet listed in Article 6 of the Articles of Religion (namely, Tobit, 1 Esdras, and 2 Esdras). As much as possible, this lectionary appoints these omitted readings in a manner that is integrated with the Daily Office lectionary – supplying parallel readings between Kings and Chronicles, for example, or appointing omitted chapters promptly after where they would have appeared in the regular lectionary.

The second priority of this lectionary, when possible, is to supply a traditional devotional reading for Holy Days found in previous Prayer Books but not supplied in the present edition.

And in further detail:

Throughout the year there are a number of days left blank in this Supplementary Midday Lectionary. On such days the reader is encouraged to make use of the standard lessons provided in the official liturgy for Midday Prayer.

January begins with the book of Wisdom, continuing where the Daily Office Lectionary left off on the morning of December 31st. The book of Tobit is then read. Because there is ample space remaining in the month, the major feast days (including the Martyrdom of Charles I on the January 30th) are each given an appropriate reading. The lesson is drawn from the 1662 Prayer Book in each case except for the Confession of St. Peter, which is drawn from the 1979 Prayer Book due to it being a feast day first reintroduced in that book.

The last day of January and the bulk of February continues the omitted writings of the Ecclesiastical Books with 1 Esdras, the majority of which is a rewrite of the end of 2 Chronicles and beginning of Ezra. Space is made for the two major feast days of the month, plus a brief interruption to begin the book of Baruch which is then finished in the Daily Office Lectionary’s evening lessons. That finished, the book of 2 Esdras is begun. The leap day, February 29th, is omitted from this plan.

March is occupied with finishing the book of 2 Esdras, breaking only to observe the Annunciation.

The Ash Wednesday lesson is taken from the 1662 Prayer Book. The same is true for the Holy Week and Easter Day lessons, though in that case several of those readings had their traditional day swapped around to accommodate our Daily Office Lectionary which appoints Lamentations 3 on Friday and Saturday instead of Tuesday.

The month of April begins the major fill-in-the-blank efforts with the Old Testament, first completing the book of Leviticus, then settling into Numbers.

May sees Numbers finished, and then proceeds through 1 Maccabees.

Ascension Day and Pentecost days are supplied with readings from the 1662 Prayer Book.

June completes 1 Maccabees and then covers the omitted chapters of Joshua. The additions to Daniel (namely the Song of the Three Young Men and Bel and the Dragon) are covered on narratively-appropriate days in tandem with the Daily Office Lectionary’s coverage of Daniel in the evening.

UPDATE: I left out the missing chapters from the book of Ezekiel.  They’ve been added to the end of June, just after the regular daily lectionary finishes the book, and parts of July, August, and September.

July sees the end of the book of Judges covered roughly in line with the end of that book in the Daily Office Lectionary’s morning lessons, as well as the Greek Old Testament Additions to Esther in tandem with that book’s coverage in the evening. Ezra chapter 2 is also supplied. The two major feast days each receive a special reading – the first from the 1979 Prayer Book and the second from the 1662.

The month of August adds Nehemiah chapter 11 and begins the omitted portions of 1 Chronicles. Only one major feast day had room for a special lesson.

September supplies the end of 1 Chronicles and some of 2 Chronicles in close parallel to its matching material in the Daily Office Lectionary’s morning lessons from the historical books. The latter two feast days of the month received lessons from the 1662 Prayer Book.

In October, omitted chapters from 2 Chronicles are supplied in the same manner, with omitted chapters from 2 Maccabees filling in the gaps to complement the evening lessons from that book. The latter two feast days of the month, again, received lessons from the 1662 Prayer Book.

November sees the final omitted chapters of 2 Chronicles covered, and supplements the missing chapters from Judith. The omitted chapters from the book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) are also begun. Space was made, also, to observe the major feast days of the month: All Saints’ Day and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed with a lesson each from the 1662 Prayer Book (the two originally appointed for All Saints’ Day); Saint Aelfric’s Day is observed with a lesson chosen from the Commons of Saints; and Saint Andrew with a lesson from the 1662 Prayer Book.

In December, Ecclesiasticus is completed, the major feast days are supplemented from 1662, and The Epistle of Jeremiah (sometimes accounted Baruch 6) is read.

What about the rest of Leviticus?

The book of Leviticus has started its run-through in the Daily Office this morning, according our daily lectionary.  But if you’re looking at the actual lectionary table rather than just following the entire Office online you’ll notice that tomorrow we’ll skip from chapter 1 to chapter 8.  Then we’ll skip to 10, then 16-20 in a row, then 26, and that’s it for Leviticus.  Of the 27 chapters, we’ll only cover 9 – just one third of the book!  Some of you might breathe a sigh of relief at this news, others might get indignant and ask “what gives?”

The main point of a Daily Lectionary, yes, is to get the “full counsel of God” into the eyes and ears of every Christian.  You could to Morning and Evening Prayer every day and over the course of the year you get through the entire Bible.  Or rather, the vast majority of the Bible.  The fact is, every Prayer Book lectionary is “incomplete” when it comes to biblical coverage.  Although this occasionally can be a cover for revisionist selectivism and overlooking difficult/unliked passages (I’m looking at you, 1979) the usual reason is perfectly harmless: not all parts of Scripture are equally accessible and equally beneficial to the reader.

Yes, all Scripture is “God-breathed” or “God-inspired” and therefore beneficial for instruction and training in righteousness, but not all parts of Scripture will accomplish that as well as other parts.  To that end, different lectionaries at different times have made different omissions, judging by the needs of and expectations for its congregations.  The earliest Prayer Book lectionary included only four chapters of Leviticus: 18-21.  It also omitted 1 & 2 Chronicles, much of Numbers and Ezekiel, and the entire book of St. John’s Revelation (apart from one or two snippets in the Communion lectionary).  The reasons for these decisions generally revolve around:

  1. simplicity of use (rather than weaving the Chronicles material into 1 & 2 Kings like our new lectionary, just skip them entirely)
  2. potential for misunderstanding (the Laws of the Torah and the Apocalyptic visions of Ezekiel and Revelation are too complex or too obscure for the average reader)
  3. constraint of time (there are only so many days in the year, so unless you read multiple chapters at once you’re not going to cover everything on just 2 readings per morning plus 2 per evening)

With these reasons in mind you can glance at different lectionaries from different centuries and perhaps better understand why some omissions were made in the 17th century and different ones are made today.  With public literacy higher, more study resources readily available, and an evangelical background expectation to read “the Bible in a year” already common, the modern reader is better-equipped to tackle more of the difficult and obscure passages of Scripture.  But it will always be true that some parts of the Bible simply need to be taught and preached for the majority of readers to finally “get” them.

That said, if you’re of a completionist mindset, and want to read the rest of the book of Leviticus yourself, something you can do is device a supplementary lectionary of one extra reading per day and use it during Midday Prayer.  The Saint Aelfric Customary will providing just such a lectionary, and here’s how it finishes the books of Leviticus and Numbers:

April

1  
2  
3 Leviticus 2
4 3
5 4
6 5
7 6
8 7
9 9
10 11
11 12
12 13
13 14
14 15
15 21
16 22
17 24
18 25
19 27
20 Numbers 1
21 2
22 3
23 4
24 5
25 7
26 9
27 10
28 19
29 26
30 27

May

1 Numbers 28
2 29
3 30
4 31
5 32
6 33
7 34
8 35
9 36

Holiness and Marriage and Mary

Yesterday was the feast of the Annunciation, one of the major holy days of the Christian year.  Only one reading in the Daily Office Lectionary was specially altered to befit the day, however.  (This is my main disappointment with this particular lectionary, that it provides only scant observance of the major holy days, often offering only one special reading, and even then often doubling one of the readings from the Communion service.)  But what we did have was an interesting “accidental” convergence of topics.  The evening reading yesterday was from Ephesians 5, and this evening finishes that chapter.  Because it’s the Daily Office Lectionary we’re able (and ought) to read these lessons in the context of the whole book; but in this instance we’re able to read it also in the context the Annunciation.

How does this help?

The strict call to holiness in the first half of chapter 5 leading into the beautiful description of marriage in the second half take an extra sense of oomph with the Annunciation fresh on our minds.  There were have the angel telling Mary that’s she’s a “grace-filled one” (full of grace in Catholic translations, favored one in Protestant translations).  There we have Mary offering her fiat to the New Creation – “fiat mihi…” = “be it unto me…”  There we have her virginity intact, and her betrothal to Joseph.  In short, she is modeling almost everything we see in Ephesians 5.

Whether you go on to believe the historic Marian doctrines or not – her perpetual virginity, her sinless life by God’s grace, her bodily assumption into heaven – at least this moment of the Annunciation sheds a great deal of light on her and her husband-to-be.  They’re called the Holy Family… Christ was literally present in the marriage of Joseph and Mary, and in their life together.

So consider keeping this extra context in mind as you read the rest of Ephesians 5 tonight.  You may just discover a newfound respect and devotion regarding our Lady!  And for some this may finally be that breakthrough in understanding the difference between the veneration of the Saints and the worship of God.