How good a friend to us is the Lectionary? It’s the best. [Spanish]
Maybe you wonder: What does he mean by Lectionary?
Let’s start by saying that the Holy Bible offers our souls medicine that gives us faith and hope for heaven. But to get sustained benefit from the medicine, you have to take it in regular doses.
The Lectionary gives us those regular doses. The Sunday lectionary gives us readings from Scripture for the Lord’s day and the biggest feasts of the year. The weekday lectionary gives us a daily dose Monday through Saturday.
Our ancestors in the Christian faith apportioned and organized the doses. The Lectionary doles out the medicine according to a schedule that respects the seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall. It also takes into account the relative importance of the different books of the Bible.
How to read this medicinal Lectionary? You can read it out of a book called a “Missal” or a disposable “Missalette.” (Back before the plague, we used to have the books or booklets in the pews. Good Lord willing, we will have them there again someday soon.) You can also read the daily readings from the Lectionary on your computer or smart phone with a Catholic devotional app.
You could resolve to spend a few moments reading the Lectionary readings at least every Sunday. Or even try to build the habit of reading the Lectionary every day. The best way of all to read the Lectionary, of course, is to present oneself for Holy Mass. The Lectionary contains the readings we read at Mass.
When the Lectionary becomes a weekly or even daily companion, the Holy Scriptures begin to enter our minds and take up residence there. Over the years, the decades, the quarter centuries, the Word of God can become the fundamental organizing principle of our thoughts. No training regimen could produce a better outcome.
When the Archangel Gabriel came to the Blessed Virgin, he found a young woman who had the Holy Scriptures as her closest friends. The angel spoke to a Scripture-trained mind completely attuned to the reality of the Holy One of Israel.
The angel found Mary alert, ready to inquire about mysterious matters. How can I conceive a son and remain a virgin? –You will conceive the Christ by believing in Him. Put your faith in the Savior, and the Holy Spirit will make Him flesh in your womb. Mary had an inquiring mind, but she also stood ready to believe. Yes, she thought. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Creator of heaven and earth—He can do this. I believe.
This lectionary passage–which we will read at Mass on Sunday–we call it the… Annunciation. Gabriel came to the Blessed Mother to announce a heavenly message. She asked her question, then put her faith in the announcement. The Annunciation.
This is how good a friend the Lectionary is to us:
What will the date be, on Sunday? Correct. December 20.
I mentioned that the Lectionary has two “volumes,” so to speak, Sunday and weekday. For most of the year, there is no “competition” between the two volumes. One covers the Sundays and big feasts, the other covers ordinary Mondays through Saturdays.
But when Christmas gets close, the daily lectionary covers not just six, but the full seven days. The seven days before Jesus’ birthday. The Lectionary keeps sacred all seven dates before Jesus’ birth date.
So the Fourth Sunday of Advent has some competition from the daily Lectionary. The Fourth Sunday of Advent always falls within those seven sacred days before Christmas. It’s a Sunday, with Sunday readings. So there’s a little competition there, for which readings to use. The Sunday readings win.
This year, however, that could have caused a Lectionary disaster. Because December 20 is the day for reading the Annunciation passage. What if Christmas came and went, and we never read that gospel passage? What kind of devoted students of Scripture would we be then?
The Lectionary, however, is a better friend than that. Turns out, in this year, 2020—a year when disaster seemed to loom everywhere, and, to top it all off, we might even miss the December 20 gospel reading of the Annunciation—on this difficult year, the Sunday lectionary has an important passage assigned to the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The Annunciation.
It’s as if we were riding a bike for the first time, and we were getting up to speed, but then we lost nerve, and panicked, and we started to wobble, and oh no we’re going down… But there’s our father’s strong hand on the back of the bike holding it up. No crash. No problem. He’s got it.
That‘s how good a friend the Lectionary is. You can be a fifty-year-old priest, and it can still surprise you. It holds you up in the life of faith, even when you fear you will fall.