Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Guest Post: A Resource for Praying Sacred Scripture

Thanks again to Chris for this wonderful guest post.

If you pray the Liturgy of the Hours, you may be interested in a new resource for use with the expanded two-year cycle of the Office of Readings.

Coming out of Vatican II, Sacrosanctum concilium took the first steps toward restoring the Divine Office to its historic place as “the public prayer of the Church,” “the very prayer which Christ Himself, together with His body, addresses to the Father.”

For he continues His priestly work through the agency of His Church, which is ceaselessly engaged in praising the Lord and interceding for the salvation of the whole world. She does this, not only by celebrating the eucharist, but also in other ways, especially by praying the divine office. (Emphasis mine)

Theologically, the Church teaches that all who participate in the prayers of the Divine Office anywhere around the world are exercising an essential aspect of their “common priesthood” they share as members of Christ’s body on Earth. It has become my primary means of reading Scripture.

The Divine Office makes this easy for laity who, unlike clergy and religious, are not obliged to pray the Office in its entirety. In addition to the Morning, Daytime, Evening, and Night offices that sanctify specific hours of the day, there is also an Office of Readings. Each day, it pairs one scriptural reading paired with a second patristic or other non-Biblical reading. The full official translation in the US is the four-volume Liturgy of the Hours published by Catholic Book Publishing, or excellent Divine Office apps like iBreviary (US texts) or Universalis (UK texts).

However, having prayed the Office for many years, I recently switched to the one-volume abridged Christian Prayer and discovered something that I’d missed all along. Without much explanation, the single-volume edition contains a table of an alternative two-year expanded scriptural lectionary for the Office of Readings. This allows the reader a much deeper dive into scripture each day which, when combined with the readings at Mass, are a thorough daily tour of almost the entirety of the Bible. If you’ve only prayed from the four-volume set or one of the apps, you will be as surprised as I was to learn we’ve been missing out!

Originally the two-year cycle alone was produced, it was only when the practicality of printing the whole of the Office and the lectionary together was faced that the idea of a single year lectionary was suggested. (From the Company of Voices blog)

Though the four-volume edition includes the texts for both readings every day of the year, the shorter one-volume “Christian Prayer” does not, including only a few selections and the full two-year lectionary references. That’s given me the freedom not only to spend time with the longer passages, but also to rotate through many different Catholic translations, and not just the old NAB lectionary printed in the full set. Ironically, as a praying Bible reader, I get to spend time with more Scripture each day using the abridged volume! (I also get musical settings to the hymns.)

But, as always, there’s a catch.

The table only lists the scripture readings for each day, not the paired readings from the Church Fathers. Try as I might, I couldn’t find an official list anywhere of the specific texts approved for the second readings in the longer two-year cycle. As it turns out, it was never formally approved and promulgated, only the texts for the one-year lectionary. So, over the years, various publishers and religious orders have produced their own proposed patristic lectionaries for the expanded two-year Office of Readings. And of course, most are out of print.

However, I stumbled across this newer resource I wanted to share: a two-year patristic lectionary for the Divine Office the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity prepared for Scotland’s Pluscarden Abbey. This collection contains not only the scripture readings specified for each day in the two-year cycle (from the RSV) but also a paired patristic reading specific to each Biblical passage.

As a commentary by the Fathers of the Church on almost the whole of Scripture this should be a great resource for homilies and catechetics, as well as a text for the liturgy.
The lectionary is in use in monasteries in Scotland, England, the USA, Ghana and South Africa. We hope that its inclusion as a free resource on the website of the Durham University Centre for Catholic Studies will enable it to be of use to the wider Church beyond the monasteries of the Benedictine Confederation. (Stephen Mark Holmes, New College - School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh)
Confirmed from the Episcopal Church, I often say that it was praying the Divine Office in the Book of Common Prayer that taught me how to be Catholic. So it continues to amaze me that the Church as a whole seems to downplay what is essentially the second half of our public liturgy (remember, the Apostles met for the breaking of bread and the prayers). According to Sacrosanctum concilium:
Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.
Really? What happened?! If we were following our own mandate, after 50 years, I would have expected every parish in the world to be celebrating Morning and Evening Prayer, at least on Sundays and major feast days. Having recently moved to Seattle, I’m thrilled to find that both my parish and cathedral celebrate portions of the Liturgy of the Hours as principal services for the congregation. In the San Francisco Bay Area, to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, I’d have to visit the Episcopal Grace Cathedral.
Projects like this, even if not yet fully adopted by the universal Church, at least show that the wheels are turning. Perhaps the revised Liturgy of the Hours, underway since 2012, to go along with the revised Roman Missal will adopt some of this flavor.
Do you pray any part of the Divine Office? And if so, what scriptural resources do you use for the Office of Readings?
Download the entire Patristic Lectionary here. (.zip file)

Christopher Buckley holds an M.A. in Religion from the Claremont School of Theology. He began as a United Methodist and passed through the Episcopal Church before being confirmed into the Catholic Church as an adult. He lives and works in Seattle with his wife and two children, and blogs occasionally at Connect with him on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Flickr, and LinkedIn, and


Anonymous said...


Stephen Mark Holmes (referred to above) has published "The Fathers on the Sunday Gospels". Published by Liturgical Press. In the book he covers all three Sunday cycles with readings from the Fathers on each of the Sunday and Feast Day Gospel readings. He has included some very good selections. I realize it is not for the LOTH but having the Fathers take on the Sunday Gospels is very helpful--IMHO.

Also regarding the new revised LOTH (due out in 2020?) according to the Bishops Worship Conference they are looking into the feasibility of producing the two-year cycle complete with scriptural and non-scriptural readings. The members of the conference are looking into the German, Italian conference to see how they have adapted the use of the two year cycle. It is my hope as well as many other users of the LOTH that the US Bishops do agree to publish the two year cycle. The German Bishops published their version years ago and it comes in 8 medium sized volumes that compliment the LOTH book.
FYI--you can read the Bishops status regarding the revised edition on the USCCB site under the worship banner and check out the March 2015 newsletter for more details.


CWBuckley said...

Thanks Michael and Anonymous-

I'll look into it. Yes, one of the blog posts I link back to mention a number of non-English editions that do include the full second readings for the two-year cycle. It even mentions now out-of-print editions in English from Catholic Book Publishing ("Christian Readings Vol. 1-VI") and Augustinian Press ("A Word in Season"). Since writing this, I've even contacted Ignatius Press, urging them to partner with Durham University to print these patristic readings paired with their own RSV-2CE in a two-volume edition (Year I and Year II) according to the table of readings. I would love to have a supplemental volume, sized to be a companion to Christian Prayer, containing each day's reading in the RSV-2CE with the patristic reading of the day, in liturgical order!

I hadn't heard that the bishops are considering using the full two-year cycle in the revisions. That would be perfect!

Thanks for reading, and praying!


CWBuckley said...

Oh, also Anonymous, to your point on the patristic companions to the Sunday mass readings: it seems the whole point of having the two-year Divine Office lectionary is precisely because it combines with the Sunday mass readings for a complementary overview of the majority of Sacred Scripture.

If you do pray both the Sunday mass and the Office of Readings daily using the two-year cycle, then you've heard the majority of the Bible.

This underscores what I said about the Liturgy of the Hours being the "other half" of our public liturgy.

Matthew Celestine said...

I don't do the Office of Readings. I just do morning and evening prayer and sometimes daytime and night prayer.

TS said...

Same for me as Matthew said above, except just morning prayer for me. I wonder if this resource extends to the psalms and such that make up morning prayer.

CWBuckley said...


The Office of Readings is its own Office in the Liturgy of the Hours, like Morning, Daytime, Evening, and Night prayer. Just like the other offices, it even has its own psalms and concluding prayer each day to accompany the Biblical readings.

Unlike those other Offices, though, it can be prayed at any hour of the day that's convenient.

Moreover, the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours gives specific instructions on how to COMBINE two hours. This is handy for those who, like me, want to pray the Office of Readings AND Morning Prayer together (because that's when I can pray - if you're on a Daytime, Evening, or Night Prayer rhythm, you could use these instructions to join the Office of Readings to one of those hours instead).

See paragraph 99 at

"99. If the office of readings comes immediately before another hour of the office, then the appropriate hymn for that hour may be sung at the beginning of the office of readings. At the end of the office of readings the prayer and conclusion are omitted and in the hour following the introductory verse with the Glory to the Father is omitted."

Essentially, following this at Morning Prayer time:
-I begin with the Invitatory and the Hyman for Morning Prayer
-Switch to the three Psalms and the two readings for the Office of Readings
-Skip the concluding prayer from the Office of Readings and go back to Morning Prayer with its Psalms
-The pray Morning Prayer to the end and finish

If you're already in the habit of praying one or more of the Liturgy of the Hours, then consider combining the Office of Readings with your favorite HOur for a week, and see what happens.


Anonymous said...


To answer your question regarding scriptural resource used during the Office of Readings. For the past several years I have been using the Catholic Prayer Bible/Lectio Divina Edition. This bible uses the NRSV translation. I like it because it helps me focus on meditating the particular scripture and gives me hints as to implementing the passage in my life. Since using this tool I have spent more time meditating on the passage as opposed to just reading it and moving on.
Thanks to this blog I have also started to incorporate the Didache NABRE Bible. This particular bible is used later in the day and I usually read the verses/chapters surrounding the assigned daily reading--this supplies a more thorough understanding of the daily reading as well as the book being presented in the LOTH.


CWBuckley said...

Thanks Anonymous-

You know I've seen that Bible, but never cracked it open.
Do you know if its organizes the readings around the full two-year cycle described here, or the simpler one-year cycle the published Liturgy of the Hours opted to use?

Glad to hear some love for the NABRE. I find the new OT to be a fantastic translation from the original languages, and look forward eagerly to having a new NT to match it (whenever they manage to finish it).


Anonymous said...

Chris--the Catholic Prayer Bible is organized like a regular bible--Genesis thru Revelation. However for each chapter or select verses it lists 4 headings. One is a brief overview of the chapter or verses being prayed. Two is a reflection, 3 prayer and 4 an action. For example: READ: Gen: 1:1-19----Note the order of creation. Each day follows carefully upon what happened the day before, according to the divine plan that builds toward unity and harmony of everything that exists. Creation begins significantly with God's word, and the first thing created is light. By these we can see and know all of creation.
REFLECT: Do Ihave a real awe and wonder at God's goodness and beauty? Do I give thanks always for the God who always guides everything in the world?
PRAY: I ask to find God everywhere in the world around me and pray for deeper reverence for all created things.
ACT: I will treat each person I met and each thing I touch as though it were the direct image of the goodness and love of God.

These brief comments are not meant to be deep theological explanations or commentary they are there to assist in guided prayer.


CWBuckley said...

Thanks Lenny-

Good to know more about that resource. I too am a fan of the NABRE Didache, because I like how cleanly it includes both the NABRE translators' notes with the publisher's notes drawn from the Catechism.

When i use it during Office of Readings, I typically have a copy of the Catechism in hand to look up the cited paragraphs along with the Scripture readings to which they apply.

I can also do the same with the Ignatius Study Bible New Testament, which often includes references to paragraphs in the Catechism.


Michael Grinder said...

It looks like there are some files missing from the University of Edinburgh patristic lectionary. There aren't patristic readings files for Year 2 Weeks 18-34 of Ordinary Time and Year 2 Eastertide.

Anonymous said...

Although I am wedded to the lectionary of the English Office Book which is that of 1922 I do look around at others. Your readers, if they read Italian, may be interested to peruse a Carthusian information site which amongst other items includes their monastic lectionary for the office. They also offer their diurnal in both Latin and Italian. Such a generous resource!

Many thanks for your blog which has been a source of much information especially about the Solesmes volumes.

Seraphim the Anglican+

ELC said...

Is the two-year biblical lectionary from Chrisian Prayer on line anywhere? I mean, just a table of the citations. Thanks.

CWBuckley said...

CWBuckley said...

Also, the patristic lectionary itself I link us to in this post contains the lectionary readings (in RSV) and the table.

ELC said...

Thank you.

I presume Years 1 and 2 correspond to (that is, are to be used in) Years I and II of the weekday lectionary for Mass.

CWBuckley said...

That's also something that needs official guidance, as the Christian Prayer volume includes the table but not how and when to use it!

Anecdotally, I see often see Year I starting in Advent before odd numbered years, and Year II beginning before even-numbered ones. That's how I've been reading it until I can find clear and official guidance otherwise.

ELC said...

Thanks again.