A ‘patristic lectionary’ is a series of readings from the fathers (in Latin patres) of the Church. Scripture has always been read in the Church in the context of tradition. With the development of the Divine Office (services of prayer celebrated at different times of each day) the daily cycle of Scripture reading came to be accompanied by commentaries from the fathers of the Church, as St Benedict wrote in the middle of the sixth century, ‘Let the inspired books of both the Old and the New Testaments be read at Vigils, as also commentaries on them by the most eminent orthodox and catholic fathers’ (Rule of Benedict, IX).
After the Second Vatican Council the Holy See produced two Lectionaries of Scripture readings for use with the Liturgy of the Hours, a one-year cycle and a two-year cycle. The one-year cycle of Scripture with an accompanying patristic reading for use each day at the Office of Readings was published in the editio typica of the Liturgia Horarum and translated into the various vernaculars, including the three volume English ‘Divine Office’. This is the version used by most priests, religious and laity today. Some find the one-year cycle of Scripture and the choice of patristic readings unhelpful after many years repetition; it is certainly not suitable for monastic communities.
The two-year cycle of Scripture readings was published in Notitiae, the Journal of the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW), with the intention of publishing it as a supplement to the Liturgia Horarum. Work was also done on a two year cycle of patristic texts to accompany this lectionary.
As a commentary by the Fathers of the Church on almost the whole of Scripture this should be a great resource for homilies and catechetics, as well as a text for the liturgy.
The aim of the Two Year Patristic Lectionary is thus:
- To have each patristic reading either related to the Scripture reading or to the season of the Church’s year.
- To have a reading for every day of the Temporal cycle (i.e. including days such as Christmas, Ascension, Sacred Heart).
- To have the vast majority of the ‘patristic’ readings from the Fathers of the Church, although following medieval precedent writers such as Origen have been included. This gives it ecumenical value.
- To use readings from the one-year cycle in the Divine Office and the two-year cycle of Word in Season whenever possible.
- To include the texts of a complete two-year Scripture cycle, as approved by the Holy See, for use with the patristic readings.