After a series of revisions, the ACNA has released the “final” version of the Daily Office Lectionary that will be included in the ACNA Prayer Book (due to be published in 2019).
(To learn more about what the Daily Office Lectionary is, click here.)
Because I’ve been using the ACNA lectionary in the Daily Office Booklets I’ve made since Advent 2016, I’m familiar with the changes that have been made in the various revisions.
I’d therefore like to offer a summary and review of this final ACNA Daily Office lectionary.
(To follow along with me, you can access the official PDF of the lectionary by clicking here.)
The first few pages of the lectionary are devoted to instructions, first for the use of the Psalms (Psalter), and then for the use of the rest of the lectionary.
Instructions for the Psalms
Right from the beginning, you can see how important the goals of Anglicanism at the time of the 16th-century Reformation are to the ACNA.
Recitation of the Psalms is central to daily worship throughout the Christian Tradition. Anglicanism at the time of the Reformation established that the entire Psalter should be read in the Daily Office every month. (Emphasis added.)
Ever since the first (1549) Book of Common Prayer, a one-month schedule for reading the Psalms has been included. The ACNA lectionary follows this tradition and includes a one-month Psalter table at the beginning of the lectionary. And, in the Psalter itself that will be included in the Prayer Book, there will be instructions indicating how to work through Psalter each month.
However, as in other Prayer Books, concessions are made in the ACNA lectionary for a slower pace of Psalms reading. A 60-day cycle of Psalms is included in the pages of the lectionary itself, alongside the other lessons.
For any day, the psalms appointed may be reduced in number according to local circumstance, provided that the entire Psalter is read regularly. If only one Office is prayed in a day, any of the psalms appointed for that day may be used.
Other instructions include:
- You can say the Gloria Patri (“Glory be to the Father, and to…”) either after every psalm, or at the end of the group of psalms that you read.
- You can recite the psalms in different ways, depending on the size and setting of your gathering:
- responsively (between leader and people),
- antiphonally (alternating sides of the congregation),
- or in unison,
- and by whole or half verse.
The verse numbers in the lectionary correspond to the 2019 Prayer Book “New Coverdale” Psalter. In this Psalter, asterisks (*) will indicate the halfway point in each verse.
Instructions for the Lectionary
Again, right at the beginning of the instructions for the rest of the lectionary, the ACNA re-states its Reformational aims:
The principle adopted at the Reformation was that “the whole of Holy Scripture (or the greatest part thereof )” should be read each year. This cycle of lessons is based on that principle.
This reference to Cranmer’s preface to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer is very important. It’s the main justification given for switching from the two-year cycle of lessons included in the Daily Office Lectionary of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer back to a one-year cycle, like that included in the 1549, 1552, 1662, and 1928 BCPs.
You can shorten long readings.
Now, the immediate result of such a switch is longer readings. That’s probably the first thing you’ll notice if you’re making the switch from the 1979 BCP’s Daily Office to the ACNA’s.
So, the ACNA instructions allow for the shortening of lessons as necessary, “as long as the plain sense of the text is not lost.” Also, they’ve included a dagger symbol (†) in the lectionary to indicate a way to abbreviate a longer chapter if desired. If the chapter is too long, simply read the verses after the dagger symbol.
You can use it as a two-year lectionary.
Another way to shorten the amount of text read at each service is to use the lectionary as a two-year lectionary.
This Daily Office Lectionary may be adapted for use in a two- year cycle (indicated by I and II in the monthly headings) by reading only the two lessons appointed for Morning Prayer in odd-numbered years (e.g., 2019) and the two lessons appointed for Evening Prayer in even-numbered years (e.g., 2020). The two lessons each day may be divided across the two offices.
In this way, the New Testament will be read through once each year, and the Old Testament will be read through in two years.
An Overview of the Lectionary Itself
Here it might be helpful to take a look at the spreadsheet version of the ACNA lectionary I’ve created.
Sequence, “Interrupted” by Holy Days
This lectionary works its way through books of the Bible more or less sequentially. The only “interruptions” are Holy Days of the Christian Year. So, for example, you’re reading along in the Gospel of John in early January, and on January 06, The Epiphany, there’s a Gospel reading from Matthew.
As the official instructions clarify:
For most Holy Days a single proper lesson is included, usually in Morning Prayer. For major feasts of our Lord, two proper lessons are included.
Many Holy Days, like Epiphany, have fixed calendar dates. However, because the date of Easter and its associated Holy Days moves each year, the ACNA lectionary has provided “additional tables in the midst of the lectionary,” where Easter and its related days “are indicated at the earliest possible date with a double dagger (‡).”
First Lessons: OT & Apocrypha
The first lessons for both morning and evening prayer normally come from the Old Testament or the Apocrypha, and if you follow the one-year cycle you’ll get through almost the entire Old Testament every year (exceptions include passages in Leviticus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ezra, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, and the majority of Chronicles).
Why the Apocrypha?
At this point, you might be wondering: “Why do we read from the Apocrypha?”
Here’s the official answer:
Less of the Apocrypha has been included than in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; however, select passages have been retained, in keeping with the classic Anglican principle that “the Church doth read [these books] for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine” (Article VI of the Thirty- Nine Articles).
Also, note that readings from the Apocrypha are put in italics so that you can easily spot them. At the end of a reading from the Apocrypha, you should say “Here ends the Reading” (no response), instead of the normal “The Word of the Lord” (“Thanks be to God”).
Also, if you really don’t like the Apocrypha, there’s a way out:
Should an alternate reading be desired to replace the Apocrypha, the reading appointed as the first lesson of the other office for that day may be divided between the two offices.
Second Lessons: NT (Gospels, Acts, Epistles)
As for the second lessons, they come from the New Testament. If you’re on the one-year cycle, you’ll get through the Gospels and Acts twice each year, and you’ll get through most of the Epistles twice as well. The exception to this is the book of Revelation, which gets read only once each year, during the Advent season.
At first, you’ll be reading from the Gospels and Acts during Morning Prayer. Then, in mid-June, you’ll switch to reading from the Epistles in Morning Prayer. From late-May to early-July, you’ll read Acts in Evening Prayer. Then, in late-July, you’ll switch from the Epistles to the Gospels in Evening Prayer.
(ˆThat will make more sense if you take a look at the spreadsheet.)
OK, so much for what’s in the lectionary. What do I think of it?
I’ll try to keep this part brief.
- You go through a LOT of Scripture, mainly following the sequence and contours of the canon.
- The ACNA lectionary has Anglican tradition on its side. Just compare this lectionary to the lectionary included in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer.
- You can use this lectionary as either a one-year or a two-year lectionary.
- You can still use it even if you only pray once a day.
- The lectionary celebrates the main feast days of the Christian year.
- Because it’s new and idiosyncratic, there won’t be nearly as many people using this lectionary as the Revised Common Lectionary or the lectionary in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
- This lectionary follows the civil calendar, not the liturgical calendar. I know that there are reasons for this, but it does remove the lessons in the Daily Office as another source of the seasonal rhythms of the Christian year.
One last thing. It’s more of a question I’m pondering.
To what extent should following the spirit of the Anglican Reformation today lead to departing from its letter?
Cranmer made the changes and innovations he did for the sake of simplicity and practicality in his historical context.
I think that this ACNA lectionary follows the spirit of Cranmer in its adaptability as a one or a two-year lectionary. But I do wonder what it would look like for us to start with the question “What’s a lectionary that regular people will use, given our present context (and the way/amount that people read these days)?”
Bottom Line: Pick a Lectionary that You’ll Use!
In the end, I like the ACNA Daily Office Lectionary and I will use it. Will you?
If not, that’s fine. But please find a lectionary that you will use regularly! Read your Bible!