DEAR FATHER | Vatican II effected changes in readings at Mass

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Before the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, nearly every Mass had only two readings as part of the Mass. The first reading was known as the epistle, as the lectionary tended to draw more from the letters of the New Testament than from the books of the Old Testament. After the psalm and Gospel acclamation would come the Gospel.

The Holy Spirit moved the Second Vatican Council to emphasize afresh the Scriptures. In particular, the council added a reading to the Sunday liturgy, as well as to other solemnities such as Christmas. This new reading would be primarily from the Old Testament, while the other two would retain the former order of the epistle and the Gospel. The readings that were chosen show the continuity in God's revelation, especially by showing that what was foretold in the Old Testament is brought to completion in Christ.

In addition to adding a reading to the Sunday and other Masses for solemnities, the council further added to the lectionary three yearly cycles on Sundays and a two-year cycle on the weekday. On the weekends, this allows for an emphasis on a particular Gospel for an entire year. On the weekdays, this allows one who attends Mass to hear most of the Bible in two years time.

The weekday Mass, then, preserves the tradition of having only two readings at a Mass. This was likely done to keep weekday celebrations at a length that would allow people to get to what they need to do while benefiting from a greater variety of Scripture than beforehand.

Father Mayo is pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Warrenton. 

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