Reflection on The Lectionary Te Maramataka 2007

A wise retired priest said to me wistfully, “in the New Zealand Anglican church now we are offered a dozen or so suggestions – and if we don’t like them we can do whatever we like.” Our Lectionary 2007 often supports this impression.

I know of church leaders in non-lectionary-based communities and denominations who are encouraging a disciplined reading of scripture within their communities. They have looked at our Lectionary publications but are quickly put off by its complexity. Even within Anglicanism, one does not need to look far to find a parish that has abandoned the lectionary. This, in my opinion, is a great tragedy. One of the greatest gifts of the Second Vatican Council to Western Christianity was the three year cycle of Sunday readings (adapted to become the Revised Common Lectionary RCL). Internationally and ecumenically most Christians Sunday by Sunday are now reading the same gospel text. Locally, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, and other clergy are meeting for scripture reflection and prayer around the same Sunday readings. In cyberspace and published in books there are commentaries, prayer and service resources, hymn and song suggestions – all around the shared texts. This site is just such another example of a readily available resource committed to this cycle of readings. Unfortunately, there is now talk at decision making levels of our church about having closed seasons and open ones (when you can abandon the lectionary), and of a “Creation Season”, again abandoning our shared lectionary.

The anonymous author of the annual NZ Lectionary publication, may, amongst those individuals and communities committed to this discipline, have had more influence possibly than canonically appropriate. Until 1994 it published the local 2 year Sunday series, as well as the (Australian – sounds far less papist?) 3 year series.  From 1995 to 1998 it published the 2 year, the 3 year, and the RCL (which was not yet authorised!) From 1999 to 2003 it removed the 3 year series – a formulary of our church. And since 2004 it has dropped that other formulary of our church, the 2 year series, also [I would be the last to advocate for the 2 year series – but that is another story not relevant to this point]. Different publications have come in and out of favour as highlighted resources, Celebrating Eucharist among them. Some resources are given the status of “received by General Synod”, which sounds nice but canonically means absolutely nothing (I’ll probably write differently should General Synod ever “receive” Celebrating Eucharist or this website LOL).

The 2007 Lectionary

The source of the daily readings are not suggested by General Synod. They are credited here to the Church of England, but of course the daily eucharistic readings are just the Roman Catholic ones. For many years we were a year out of step with the rest of the planet until they finally believed my protestations and now we share the daily readings that must be the most read on the planet. The Celebrating Common Prayer version of the office features large – of course should it diminish the use of the formularies (the NZPB or BCP offices) that would be illegal under the CofE Empowering Act 1928.

Liturgical colours, we are reminded, are not mandatory, however the traditional use of Green after the first Ordinary Sunday is not even provided as an option. Instead there is a (white) “Season of Epiphany” created without RCL or General Synod sanction.

One thing for which the 2007 Lectionary must be commended: the last time that we have had the collect indicated in our formularies placed in the Lectionary was 1998. Once again one is directed to the correct page [For some reason Advent 2 & 3 are reversed - we may find other errors as the year goes on]. This site has been providing a commentary on the appropriate collect for the Sunday. That this site agrees with the page chosen while it may not always agree with the choice on that page is another story.

Unfortunately, the Lectionary continues the unhelpful tradition of encouraging more than one collect at a service. This, in my opinion, completely misunderstands the role of the collect and I would have thought would have long disappeared with liturgical renewal. It states the “Ash Wednesday Collect may be used daily until Maundy Thursday” – this to the many with little liturgical formation can be ambiguously read to mean the Ash Wednesday Collect IS the collect every day of Lent. Worse than this cited “may be used” is the statement that “during the Season of Epiphany (sic)…Where other provision is made, Epiphany Collect should follow that of the day.” There is no requirement for this second collect – the Lectionary editor is continuing an idea of the seventeenth century Bishop Matthew Wren that relegates the collect (now “collects”!) to just another lovely prayer rather than having a particular gathering function to perform. It leaps out particularly for me, having had the provincial liturgical commission require me to remove every occurrence of the word “should” from Celebrating Eucharist prior to its publication. The more-than-one collect tradition was embodied in the Table to Regulate Observances pages 939ff in earlier editions of the NZ Prayer Book but now removed from up to date editions. First person to get me the appropriate GS legislation which removed it gets credit here (otherwise it is another mistake {this time one I agree with} that needs to be added elsewhere on this site).

[The Three Years Series formulary allows one to choose any collect. The Two Year Series had specific collects assigned. I have yet to check what the RCL formulary has in relation to collects].
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