Frequently Asked Questions
What is ‘Lectio’?
Lectio is a Latin word referring to a ‘selection’ or a ‘reading’. It comes from the Latin verb lego , which means ‘I read’ or ‘I gather’.
What is a lectionary?
A lectionary is a schedule of readings, typically used by churches for use in their public worship gatherings. Not all churches use lectionaries; some allow the preacher to decide what biblical passages will be read. But it’s more typical for a church to use some kind of schedule to map out how the Bible will be read in Sunday worship over time.
What is the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL)?
The Revised Common Lectionary is schedule of readings that has been adopted for use in public worship by a large number of churches throughout the globe. It is a modification of the lectionary used by the Roman Catholic Church and has gone through many years of vetting and approval by different church bodies. It is a three-year cycle of readings, and its readings are rooted in the celebrations and seasons of the church year.
What Is the church year?
The earliest periodic Christian festival was Sunday—the Lord’s Day—which was a day celebrating Jesus’s resurrection from the dead. Over time, a more elaborate annual celebration of the resurrection became part of the church’s worship: we call this Easter. Later still, the church developed another major annual festival celebrating the nativity or birth of Jesus which we now know as Christmas. Easter and Christmas anchor what has become the Church year: preparatory seasons before these major festivals, days and weeks of celebration following them, and additional feast days occurring at various times between them. The church year starts with the First Sunday in Advent, which is the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day (December 25th).
What is dailyLectio?
dailyLectio seeks to support individuals in the discipline or practice of daily reading from Scripture in a way that brings them closer to the community of the Church. Each day, it provides the Daily Readings of the Revised Common Lectionary. These daily readings both prepare for and reflect upon the biblical passages that are assigned to be read in Sunday’s worship.
Why would one want to read the Bible this way rather than reading it book-by-book?
Reading the Bible one book at a time is another legitimate approach to reading scripture, and one that should be commended to all the faithful. However, following the Daily Readings of the RCL will immerse you within the cycles of stories and celebrations of the church year. It can also help you see new thematic connections between different parts of the Bible. The experience of Sunday worship may become more meaningful as you will have spent time both preparing for and reflecting on the themes that will appear in the readings, hymns and preaching.
How is the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) structured?
The three-year cycle of the RCL’s Sunday Readings focuses on the story of Jesus in the gospels. Matthew is read in Year A, Mark in Year B, and Luke in Year C. During all three years, the Gospel of John is read on key feast days and during the season of Easter. In addition to the gospel readings, a reading from the Old Testament, a psalm, and New Testament readings outside of the gospels are also appointed.
How are the Daily Readings structured?
The cycle of Daily Readings is anchored in the texts the RCL appoints for Sunday. If your local church uses the RCL, the readings you hear there will likely be the exact same readings that appear on Sunday at dailyLectio.net. Throughout the rest of the week, passages from the Daily Readings relate to those Sunday readings: passages appearing on Thursday through Saturday help prepare for Sunday, while passages appearing on Monday through Wednesday reflect back on the prior Sunday.
On days apart from Sunday, three readings are included. Each day starts with a psalm, one repeated on Monday through Wednesday and a different one repeated Thursday through Saturday. The latter psalm is the one you will hear or recite in church on Sunday. A reading from the Old Testament follows the psalm. Finally there is a reading from the New Testament: a passage from one of the gospels on Saturday and Wednesday, and a passage from elsewhere in the New Testament on other weekdays.
Sometimes I see buttons labelled “Semicontinuous” and “Complementary”. What do these mean?
In the second half of the church year, after the Day of Pentecost, the RCL provides alternatives for reading from the Old Testament and the Psalms. Following a practice in some church traditions, the first alternative reads large portions of entire books from the Old Testament in a semi-continuous fashion. For example, the selections from Year A start with Genesis and continue on through to Judges. The second alternative selects passages from the Old Testament that thematically complement the Sunday Gospel selection. For example, the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday in Lent (Year A) tells the story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead (John 4:5-42). That same day, we read from Ezekiel the prophecy that the Lord God will open the graves and give new life to the whole house of Israel (37:1-14). During the first half of the church year, from Advent up through to the Day of Pentecost, the Old Testament readings are always chosen according to this principal of complementarity.
To enhance the connection between your daily reading practice and Sunday worship, ask your worship leader whether your community follows the semicontinuous or complementary readings during the Sundays after Pentecost.
Who decided how the lectionary would be put together?
The Revised Common Lectionary and the Daily Readings were developed by the Consultation on Common Texts, an ecumenical consultation of liturgical scholars and denominations representatives from the United States and Canada. You can read about its history and work here.
Where can I learn more?
An excellent and accessible resource about the lectionary and its use is A Three-Year Banquet: The Lectionary for the Assembly by Gail Ramshaw (Minneapolis, Minn: Augsburg Fortress, 2004).
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