BCP Lectionary

Tue, 16/10/2012 - 11:47 -- James Oakley

Many Anglican Churches across the country still use the 1662 Book of Common Prayer for some of their services. That is a good thing. It's theology is not without fault, but it attained a high standard of theology that has not been reproduced in any liturgies written since. A high proportion of all of its services are taken straight from Scripture, with the effect that a great number of Scriptures are read during any BCP service. The BCP takes the Bible, and turns it into a prayer book. The result is that as we come to pray together - either Sunday by Sunday or for a special occasion - the Bible leads us in prayer.

There are many other positive things that could be said about the 1662 Prayer Book, but this is all only preamble for what I'm about to post. The BCP contains within it two lectionaries (tables of readings). One is for all 365 days of the year, and is designed to help the church to read the whole Bible together during the course of a year. The other is designed for use during services of the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion. It contains a collect (a single-sentence prayer) and a reading from the epistles (usually) and a reading from one of the 4 Gospels. There is an entry for each Sunday in the church's year, and also for the other days of the year that the Prayer Book thinks are worth marking.

When we have a Prayer Book Communion here, we would usually use the set epistle and gospel during the service. Which means that, whenever I'm organising the readings for Sunday services for the coming months, I spend some time looking up what those readings are. Having, over the years, built up a list that I think is accurate, I thought I'd post it here in case it saves anybody else spending more time than they need to. So, in case it's helpful...

Date Epistle Gospel
Advent 1 Rom 13:8-14 Mt 21:1-13
Advent 2 Rom 15:4-13 Lk 21:25-33
Advent 3 1 Cor 4:1-5 Mt 11:2-10
Advent 4 Phil 4:4-7 Jn 1:19-28
Christmas Day Heb 1:1-12 Jn 1:1-14
St Stephen (26/12) Acts 7:55-60 Mt 23:34-39
St John the evangelist (27/12) 1 Jn 1:1-10 Jn 21:19b-25
Innocents (28/12) Rev 14:1-5 Mt 2:13-18
Sunday after Christmas Gal 4:1-7 Mt 1:18-25
Circumcicsion of Christ (01/01) Rom 4:8-13 Lk 2:15-21
Epiphany (06/01) Eph 3:1-12 Mt 2:1-12
Epiphany 1 Rom 12:1-5 Lk 2:41-52
Epiphany 2 Rom 12:6-16a Jn 2:1-11
Epiphany 3 Rom 12:16b-21 Mt 8:1-13
Epiphany 4 Rom 13:1-7 Mt 8:23-34
Epiphany 5 Col 3:12-17 Mt 13:24b-30
Epiphany 6 1 Jn 3:1-8 Mt 24:23-31
Septuagesima 1 Cor 9:24-27 Mt 20:1-16
Sexagesima 2 Cor 11:19-31 Lk 8:4-15
Quinquagesima 1 Cor 13:1-13 Lk 18:31-43
Ash Wednesday Joel 2:12-17 Mt 6:16-21
Lent 1 2 Cor 6:1-10 Mt 4:1-11
Lent 2 1 Thess 4:1-8 Mt 15:21-28
Lent 3 Eph 5:1-14 Lk 11:14-28
Lent 4 Gal 4:21-31 Jn 6:1-14
Lent 5 Heb 9:11-15 Jn 8:46-59
Palm Sunday Phil 2:5-11 Mt 27:15-26
Easter Day Col 3:1-7 Jn 20:1-10
1st after Easter 1 Jn 5:4-12 Jn 20:19-23
2nd after Easter 1 Pet 2:19-25 Jn 10:11-16
3rd after Easter 1 Pet 2:11-17 Jn 16:16-22
4th after Easter Js 1:17-21 Jn 16:5-15
5th after Easter Js 1:22-27 Jn 16:23b-33
Ascension Day Acts 1:1-11 Mk 16:14-20
Sunday after Ascension 1 Pet 4:7-11 Jn 15:26-16:4a
Whitsun Acts 2:1-11 Jn 14:15-31a
Trinity Rev 4:1-11 Jn 3:1-15
Trinity 1 1 Jn 4:7-21 Lk 16:19-31
Trinity 2 1 Jn 3:13-24 Lk 14:16-24
Trinity 3 1 Pet 5:5b-11 Lk 15:1-10
Trinity 4 Rom 8:18-23 Lk 6:36-42
Trinity 5 1 Pet 3:8-15a Lk 5:1-11
Trinity 6 Rom 6:3-11 Mt 5:20-26
Trinity 7 Rom 6:19-23 Mk 8:1-10a
Trinity 8 Rom 8:12-17 Mt 7:15-21
Trinity 9 1 Cor 10:1-13 Lk 16:1-9
Trinity 10 1 Cor 12:1-11 Lk 19:41-47a
Trinity 11 1 Cor 15:1-11 Lk 18:9-14
Trinity 12 2 Cor 3:4-9 Mk 7:31-37
Trinity 13 Gal 3:16-22 Lk 10:23b-37
Trinity 14 Gal 5:16-24 Lk 17:11-19
Trinity 15 Gal 6:11-18 Mt 6:24-34
Trinity 16 Eph 3:13-21 Lk 7:11-17
Trinity 17 Eph 4:1-6 Lk 14:1-11
Trinity 18 1 Cor 1:4-8 Mt 22:34-46
Trinity 19 Eph 4:17-32 Mt 9:1-8
Trinity 20 Eph 5:15-21 Mt 22:1-14
Trinity 21 Eph 6:10-20 Jn 4:46b-54
Trinity 22 Phil 1:3-11 Mt 18:21-35
Trinity 23 Phil 3:17-21 Mt 22:15-22
Trinity 24 Col 1:3-12 Mt 9:18-26
Trinity 25 Jer 23:5-8 Jn 6:5-14

Just a note about what is not here. After the regular calendar for Sundays, the BCP lists collects, epistles and gospels for a number of days on which saints are remembered. We would follow the readings for the associated Sunday, and not for the saint's day, so I've never looked those readings up. For that reason, those are not listed here. They are: Andrew, Thomas the apostle, the conversion of Paul, the purification of Mary, Matthias, the annunciation of Mary, Mark, Philip and James, Barnabas the apostle, John the Baptist, Peter, James the apostle, and Bartholomew.

If anyone spots any errors, please let me know so that I don't ask someone to read the wrong reading. (Although I grant: worse things than that could happen!)

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James Dowden's picture
Submitted by James Dowden on

The thing that's always struck me as odd is that in 1662 (and indeed thereafter not until 1871!) they didn't take the opportunity to slightly shift some of the awkward chapter breaks, such as moving Wisdom 8:21 to the front of chapter 9 (which surely must have been a common unofficial practice) to spare us from the frankly comical "I prayed unto the Lord, and besought him, and with my whole heart I said, here endeth the first lesson".

Jay's picture
Submitted by Jay on

Thank you for posting this table.  I searched for quite some time, and had almost resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to manually key in such a table (and that being complicated by the fact that the source document does not show the verse range; only the beginning verse).  Thankfully I found your post before doing all that work myself.  Further, after copying the table into Excel, I found that there were hyperlinks to BibleGateway (my favorite), and I found a little Excel macro which would replace text within a hyperlink text (so as to replace your translation of choice with mine).

Thank you so(!) much.  And, by any chance, do you know where the collects might possibly be entered in a table that could be cut-and-paste'd into Excel?


Chaplain John Bunyan's picture
Submitted by Chaplain John Bunyan on

Thank you for this list. In preparing a book related to the BCP lectionaries, this is a help.  At 81, I have been familiar with the BCP since childhood and still travel 170 miles every month or so to attend Choral Matins at S.John's, Canberra - and attend some BCP services in the city of Sydney.  The BCP does provide Epistles and Gospels for the Saints' Days as is noted - these are days "to be observed' !  For some time, OT readings have also been authorised in the C.of E. and adopted in our C.of Australia for use together with these Epistles and Gospels. There is a confusing number of daily BCP lectionaries, the latest authorised is that of 1922 (the improved version of about 1961 having surprisingly lost its authorisation) but the SPCK prints only the CW daily lectionary. Cranmer's lectionary in the 1549 and 1552 books was based on the civil rather than eccesiastical year. It included more than 100 readings from the Apocrypha and only a few from The Revelation !

James Oakley's picture
Submitted by James Oakley on

Thanks, John. I think only a prayer book up to 1662 could strictly be called BCP. Yes, we have other authorised lectionaries, which include the OT. I am interested in the 1549 and 1552 lectionaries. The Articles give us Cranmer's view of the apocrypha, namely that it is not Scripture but is still useful to be read. For this reason, the Church of England lectionary always gives an alternative whenever a reading from the apocrypha is given. Hence my interest in how Cranmer's lectionaries evolved.

When you've finished your book, do let the UK Prayer Book Society know - I'm sure they'd be interested.

James Oakley's picture
Submitted by James Oakley on

Fascinating, Thomas. Thanks for doing so, and adding that extra work. I still need to look through your conclusions properly, but all kinds of things start to jump out. Like: It's a shame that Galatians 4:21-31 isn't there in the CW lectionary - it's such a great text for Mothering Sunday. And: It's a good thing the BCP didn't ever do John 2, Wedding at Cana, as you'd have to have an extra wide column to fit all the times that CW uses it.

Those thoughts are both fairly trivial. I wonder if, laid alongside like that, there may be more profound conclusions to draw about the editorial intentions / biases of the RCL compilers.

Thomas Renz's picture

The Common Worship lectionary is of course an adaptation of the RCL rather than a development from the BCP lectionary and editorial intentions of the CW lectionary (or the RCL) cannot readily be discerned by comparing them to the BCP Holy Communion lectionary. My interest in producing such a table arose from pondering whether to switch from the Second Service lectiornary to the BCP HC lectionary for our evening services and wondering what help there might be for choosing hymns to go with this lectionary. 

I was worried whether the Second Service lectionary makes for a good diet for that part of the congregation who never get to hear the Principal Service lectionary readings, maybe about half of the evening congregation. I had seen the argument that the BCP HC lectionary is designed to offer a good doctrinal coverage and some believe that hearing fewer texts that come up more often (the BCP being a one-year lectionary) is better than hearing more Scripture with an expository rather than thematic focus (the RCL using a wider range of texts in a three-year cycle, with NT and Gospels being read consecutively rather than chosen because they fit together thematically).

But is the BCP Holy Communion lectionary meant to "work" on its own or did Cranmer assume that people will have heard the Mattins readings? Would a congregation that only hears the BCP HC readings receive a good diet of Scripture? Arguably not.

So while it is a shame not to have Galatians 4:21-31 in the contemporary Sunday lectionary, there may well be a good few NT texts not in the BCP HC lectionary which I would not want to miss either, not to speak of the OT.  

(Actually when I preached through Galatians as it came up in the CW Principal lectionary, I departed from the Second Service lectionary in the evening and preached on the parts of Galatians not covered in the lectionary.)

You may be interested in http://www.satucket.com/lectionary/When_Will_It_Be_Read.htm although this is RCL (and in the Excel sheet Roman, Episcopal, Lutheran, and United Methodist). I think the CW lectionary is an improvement on the RCL but I have not found an online Scripture index for it.

Thomas Renz's picture

I have not found an up-to-date list of suggestions for hymns to go with the BCP Holy Communion lectionary readings although my asking around has prompted the RSCM to consider producing one.

For now: The Guide to the Use of the Revised Edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern (undated, 1954?) offers a list bof "Hymns suggested by the Sunday Collects, Epistles and Gospels" and the 1920 Church Hymnal for the Christian Year (which is available online) prints hymns in order of days on which they might be especially appropriate, e.g., Trinity 1 (457 to 464); Trinity 2 (465 to 469), Trinity 3 (470 to 473).

James Oakley's picture
Submitted by James Oakley on

Thanks - I saw you asking around about that, and wondered where your enquiries would lead. I'm delighted that the RSCM is considering it - perhaps they could work with the PBS on it as a project of joint interest? Good to know that there are some other resources that give you a start at least.

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