Thursday, February 21, 2008

Entire Bible Covered in Three Years?

One of the very common statements I hear over and over again by Catholics is that if you attend every daily Mass plus the Sunday Mass, you will have heard for all intents and purposes, the entire Bible. It is true that the current Lectionary for Mass covers much more Scripture than the Lectionary prior to Vatican II. Let me provide you with some background and statistics comparing pre and post-Vatican II:

  • In the Missal Romanum, each Catholic Mass included only two biblical readings, which were normally referred to as "The Epistle" (since the first reading was almost always taken from one of the New Testament letters) and "The Gospel." Readings from the Old Testament were never used on Sundays, but only at the Easter Vigil, the Vigil of Pentecost, the feast of Epiphany and its octave, during Holy Week, and on some weekdays (esp. Ember days, weekdays of Lent, the feasts of some saints, and some votive Masses).
  • The bishops assembled at Vatican II declared, "The treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly so that a richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word. In this way the more significant part of the Sacred Scriptures will be read to the people over a fixed number of years" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #51). The current Lectionary for Mass does indeed offer a "richer fare" of biblical readings during the Eucharistic liturgy than was available before Vatican II. However, since many parts of the Bible (esp. the Old Testament) are still not included in the Lectionary, one must go beyond the readings used at Mass to cover the entire Bible.
  • The current Lectionary uses only 13.5% of the Old Testament over the course of Sundays and weekdays, NOT including the Psalms.
  • The current Lectionary uses a more impressive 71.5% of the New Testament including Sundays and weekdays. Still a long way from 100%.
Another important thing to understand about the Catholic Liturgy, as with most other churches who have liturgical worship, is that we use 'Pericopes' in the Mass. I have encountered many non-Catholic Christians who are unfamiliar with this and because of this there is a great deal of misunderstanding. The definition of pericope is:
n. pl. pe·ric·o·pes or pe·ric·o·pae
An extract or selection from a book, especially a reading from a Scripture that forms part of a church service.

[Late Latin, from Greek, a cutting around, section, from perikoptein, to cut around : peri-, peri- + koptein, to cut.]

And from the USCCB: What's the difference between a Bible and a Lectionary?

A Lectionary is composed of the readings and the responsorial psalm assigned for each Mass of the year (Sundays, weekdays, and special occasions). The readings are divided by the day or the theme (baptism, marriage, vocations, etc.) rather than according to the books of the Bible. Introductions and conclusions have been added to each reading. Not all of the Bible is included in the Lectionary.

Individual readings in the Lectionary are called pericopes, from a Greek word meaning a "section" or "cutting." Because the Mass readings are only portions of a book or chapter, introductory phrases, called incipits, are often added to begin the Lectionary reading, for example, "In those days," "Jesus said to his disciples," etc.

Is the Bible really covered over the course of three years? Nope, not even close. Yet the other 'good news' is that many different Catholic editions of the Bible are available and excellent Catholic Bible study materials are popping up all over. I'll list some that come to mind, and will point you to my favorite editions of the Bible here and here. ;)

Ignatius Catholic Bible Study

The Great Adventure: A Journey Through the Bible (very popular at our parish!)

Salvation History: Online Bible Study led by Scott Hahn

Ignorance of Scripture is Ignorance of Christ --St. Jerome

Which Bible is the best one? It has been said thousands of times: THE ONE YOU READ! (P.S. Just be sure it isn't missing books ;) )

What are you waiting for?

FYI: Where Did the Bible Come From? A moment of apologetics from St. Michael's Media:

No comments: