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The Lectionary is wrong

LectionaryRegulars here will know that the NZ Lectionary publication is an easy target for a blog post about liturgical confusion. It has been three weeks since my last post about this – I have successfully been resisting the temptation to point out issues in the NZ Lectionary.

But regulars will also know that when it concerns the Trinity, or the celebration of our redemption, especially the fifty days of the Easter Season, I just cannot contain my irritation.

This week, suddenly, and of course without any explanation, on the 41st day of the Easter Season, the NZ Lectionary gets bored with the colour White and starts putting up Red in stead!

This in spite of our church’s rules for precedence (a formulary of our church?) quoted in the Lectionary publication (page 121):

The paschal character of the Great Fifty Days of Eastertide (from Easter Day to the Day of Pentecost) should be celebrated throughout the season and not displaced by other celebrations.

Twice in the Lectionary (page 4, page 125) publication we are told

The colours… are not mandatory but reflect common practice in most parishes

(and don’t even get me started on the inability of our church to recognise that worship occurs outside of parishes…)

In our church (known as the Anglican Church of Or) usually every possible imaginable option is presented – and then some more; to the point of the Lectionary suggesting all four liturgical colours for one day! [Quick glance: eg. Sunday 11 November has all four colours shown!] Why, then, is only Red suggested for the seasonal colour here?!!!

This period in the church year in NZ Anglicanism used to be White. Suddenly, of course without any explanation, it was changed. From Friday after Ascension Day to the Day of Pentecost has become Red. So if the Lectionary is honest, and this is descriptive (rather than prescriptive) suddenly “most parishes” in NZ changed from the international, ecumenical White for the Great Fifty Days of Eastertide to Red towards the end of it. [If another feast falls within those days, the colour of that feast may be chosen]. Why did these parishes suddenly change like this?!

Often, when the NZ Lectionary has inexplicable ideas, even to the point of breaching our own carefully-processed formularies, it is a fawning to mother Church of England. But that is not the case here. The http://almanac.oremus.org/lectionary/2012.html“>Church of England uses White throughout the Great Fifty Days of Eastertide.

This week, more than ever, we need people to sign up to Easter is 50 days. Invite your friends. Keep the Easter Candle burning. Use White. The NZ Lectionary is wrong.

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19 thoughts on “The Lectionary is wrong”

  1. Who decides this? A Liturgical Commission out of sync with all the other great traditions and Anglican provinces?

  2. Peter Carrell

    Your headline has all the surprise of ‘dog bites man’. For a ‘man bites dog’ kind of headline, might we one day see “NZ Lectionary Right For Once”? 🙂

    1. Peter, as far as I can see, the information in the NZ Lectionary for today, Tuesday, May 15 appears fine. So maybe I should have glass-half-fulled today and written “NZ Lectionary right today” 😉 Blessings.

  3. Could I put the cat among the pigeons and ask you to expand on your comment about “worship occurs outside of parishes…” – I think its a discussion I’d be interested in. (Of course it may be hiding in a seperate post somewhere already.)

    1. Your cats are always welcome amongst the pigeons here, Claudia.

      Worship happens in hospitals, prisons, schools, homes, hospitals, retirement homes, cafes, pubs,… Many of these will use liturgical traditions, colours, etc. Why should the Lectionary be “descriptive” solely of parish life?…

      Christ is risen.

      1. Does a “parish” only describe the church building, or does it describe the congregation that worships there and the community it serves?

        If the latter, then isn’t the worship taking place in the hospitals, prisons, schools, homes, retirement homes, cafes, pubs and so forth still taking place within the “parish”?


        1. I think, Claudia, we are moving into some fairly esoteric distinctions now. And I don’t think those distinctions help the point but can distract from it. Certainly parishes have carefully defined boundaries geographically, but not all worship that happens within those parish boundaries are a part of that parish’s worship. The chapel in St George’s Hospital, for example, is not under the oversight/part of the Parish of Merivale within whose boundaries that hospital sits. Life, as you well know, has become even more complex since the quakes, with communities worshipping within the parish boundaries of others (that had already happened a little previously). The cathedral in Christchurch has never been a parish.

          More common now is to speak of “Ministry Units”. Some, but by no means all, Ministry Units are parishes.

          As a chaplain I am particularly sensitive to an ignoring of non-parish ministry and mission.


          1. Thank you for helping me get my mind around this.

            I agree that the Church needs to expand its traditional “boundaries”, and much more cooperation between parishes and other ministries is going to be needed going forwards.

            Out of great challenges come great opportunities.

            God Bless you and your ministry.

          2. I agree with you, Claudia. Parish is a geographic model of being Christian. There is still much of value in it – and I certainly don’t want to denigrate it. It means a local community has a responsibility for mission, loving, ministry to all who live within those boundaries. But it does stem from a time when people moved less, and worked and played within those boundaries. While it is still of great value, we need to explore other ways of being church and be comfortable about that. I still regularly get forms which seek to know the name of my parish. Well – I don’t have one. Blessings.

      2. Or to expand the thought further, are the times I round up the family to gather around the kitchen table to read the Bible and pray together, is this outside the parish? Is it still worship?

        In another line of thought – the phrase “outside of parishes” brought to mind those people who don’t feel connected to any particular church, but may be searching for faith. The challenge for the Church and its leadership would be to find a way of bringing worship to those people, and in so doing bring them into the faith community.

  4. Martin Davies

    Oh, but it could be even better if 15 May included Pachomius, the founder of cenobitic monasticism 🙂

  5. Steve Benjamin

    Robert is right. Both Australian lectionaries give R for the liturgical colour on 27 December – St John the Evangelist – who, according to tradition, lived to a ripe old age without martyrdom, hence White not Red.

    The Aussie lectionary does have its confusions and faults. For St Stephen, St John and Holy Innocents we have a real liturgical smorgasbord on offer. None of it really makes sense but post-Christmas Anglicans are too physically bloated or spiritually exhausted to notice!

    In the orange lectionary, the three feast days stand alone among the feasts of the year and are not given proper psalms for the daily office. The psalms are from the two-monthly cycle and are all plain wrong and not appropriate for feast or season. Alternative dates are given for each feast but no aternative propers are provided if one takes up that option.

    In the blue lectionary, on these three days we confine the feast of the saints to the morning office and the evening office morphs into generic Christmastide. I detect a Roman influence here as it is contrary to Anglican liturgical practice to split days unless observing an eve of a feast.

    Alternative dates are provided for all three feasts of the saints and the lectionary kindly prints out ‘alternative’ Eucharistic propers but they are identical to those for St Stephen, St John and Holy Innocents.

    The morning office on 26 December, when St Stephen is unforgiveably unobserved, includes that beautiful Christmas story of the appointing of the seven deacons and St Stephen’s speech before his martyrdom. On 27 December when St John is ignored, the morning office contains remnants of St John’s Day in the John 1 (repeated from Christmas Day) and only on 28 December are Holy Innocents-free Christmas propers fully provided for the daily office.

    At which point, I just give up and reach for the Common Worship Lectionary where a feast lasts 24 hours and no days are split into morning feast and evening of something else unless it’s an eve.

    So, Bosco, don’t feel too irritated. Lectionary compilers must be like Persian rug-makers and they weave an error or two (or three and counting) into this human system to remind us all that only heavenly worship is perfect!

    1. Steve, as I started reading your comment, I didn’t know whether to rejoice that NZ was not alone, or be sad that Australia gets similarly confused. But all was resolved in your final paragraph which is helpful and moving. Blessings.

  6. Bosco, we will be celebrating the Feast of the Ascension in white, with the paschal candle lit, incense smoking, and Holy Eucharist!

    He has ascended, let us ascend with him.

  7. Coming to this late, by random browsing of “Similar Posts”, I think I can suggest what may be the thinking behind this. It begins, perhaps, with the abolition of the Octave of Pentecost (see Fr. Z., passim). To compensate for the result – the second greatest feast of the year reduced to a single day – it has begun to stretch out backwards. Common Worship offers seasonal material “From the day after Ascension Day until the Day of Pentecost” inclusive , pretty much turning “the original novena” (most of which was once the Octave of the Ascension) into a sort of pre-Octave for Pentecost; from there it’s a short leap to change the colour to match…

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