EF vs. OF - which has more Scripture in it?
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Several members here have expressed skepticism that the common experience of the OF does not suggest that the OF has "more Scripture content" than the EF. Here's a rough breakdown, in a spirit of fairness:

    EF High Mass
    one year lectionary
    the Mass ordinary is saturated with scripture
    all music is verbatim scripture
    pew missals tend to be followed-along, read, with clear citations

    EF Low Mass
    one year lectionary
    the Mass ordinary is saturated with scripture
    recited propers are scripture
    pew missals tend to be followed-along, read, with clear citations
    hymns are probably not verbatim scripture

    OF Mass
    three-year lectionary
    no propers
    pew missals ignored, some people read missalettes with clear citations
    hymnody is dominant and "scripture-based"

    I don't think it's at all outlandish to suggest that the OF congregant's experience of holy scripture is greatly attenuated: there is little sense of any "whole" (who can follow three years?!), and most of the music is either non-scriptural or paraphrased. However, they do have a second reading: usually a short exhortation from St. Paul.

    EF congregants have a case that their experience of scripture during the Mass is much more coherent and concentrated.

  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    It would be interesting to compare the ideal OF Mass to the EF High Mass. Or another interesting study would be how much of Scripture is present at each Mass. Does one form cover more of the bible than another? I would propose that perhaps a well-executed OF Mass may be at an advantage, if psalmody is extensively used.
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 798
    This page compares the readings at mass in the OF and the EF, complete with percentages for each book of the Bible:


    Sam Schmitt
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Sam, given it's a three-year lectionary, we could all probably guess "about 3x what the EF uses."

    That chart is really useful, though!

    My question is, how is it perceived? Is it coherent? Are there recurrences, and strong associations? Has "breadth" resulted in shallowness instead of depth? Etc.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    The three-year Lectionary being 3X the Old Missal is deceiving, especially if you go back just a couple of editions further into the past.

    Remember that the added O.T. Lesson is ONLY for Sundays and major Feast Days. Even the Apostles don't get an O.T. Lesson added. So, even at a glance, it's not 3X.

    The Old Missal has many more Saints' days with specific Lessons and Propers than the new Lectionary. And, if you go back to earlier in the 20th century, even more Feast Days had Vigils and Octaves, each having their own sets of Lessons and Propers. IMO the loss of these Vigils and Octaves was significant in reducing the amount of the Bible covered in the Missal.

    The O.T. Lesson restores some of what was lost. But even there, it often makes the Introit redundant since it's only an expansion thereof.

    And, while the Resp. Ps. has more verses per Mass than the Gradual, there is still a lot of repetition. I haven't taken a tally of Psalms used in the Old Missal, but you can check the back of any Lectionary and see that only about 1/3 if the Psalter is represented, and most of the Psalms are seriously shortened.
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 798
    I understand the limitations of the chart - just thought it might be fodder for the discussion.

    In my opinion, "less is more" when it comes to the readings. Three readings is normally just too much to really take in properly at a single sitting, let alone cover adequately in a homily. With less readings, perhaps preachers would take into consideration the proper texts as well, as I have sometimes observed in homilies at EF masses. This is particularly noticeable with Sundays such as "Gaudete" or "Quasimodo" Sundays.

    So the perception I have with the EF is that there may be fewer verses of the Bible read, but those verses are (are can be) taken in more deeply. Verses like the ones mentioned above can take on associations and become part of ones interior life. This may be due to the fact that the propers have largely been abandoned in the EF, but I would argue that the sheer amount of Scripture coming at you over three years in the OF can, paradoxically, diminish its significance over time, making the liturgy of the word something of a blur.

    Here's an illustration of what I mean. After five or ten years, there's a chance of my remembering the reading for the Feast of Christ the King, and I could really get to "know it," but only if it's the same reading year after year (as in the EF), not the same one only every three years (as in the OF). In the latter scenario, there's really no chance that the gospel reading for Christ the King will be remembered as such, for the simple reason that there is no single gospel reading for that day! This day (and every other Sunday and most feasts) lack a proper gospel in the OF. It seems to me that this is a tremendous loss, and definitely not a help in getting to know the Bible better.

    Sam Schmitt
  • Cogent observations, Steve. I don't, though, see any necessary connection with the OT lesson that makes the Introit redundant. There are many things that I (along with others) miss about the old lectionary and year - particularly the seasons of Epiphany, pre-lent (the '-gessimas'), and Pentecost (or for the Anglican Use, Trinity); nor do I understand why Americans can attend sports events any day and time of the week but can't get to church on the real Epiphany and Ascension, etc.; and, as suggested above, one does not profit from the saturation and more intense rhythm of the old; also, we have lost the connections whereby a number of Sundays were known by their Introits or collects; one could go on: the splendid array of octaves, etc., etc. But, there are things about the new that are, I believe, positive. The three year cycle does, after all, have a rhythm, too; and after living through a few cycles one becomes atuned to it, familiar with Its pulse, and begins to anticipate certain of its readings, also. The addition (or restoration ?) of the OT lesson is a very positive development and adds a perhaps neglected depth to our liturgical, our spiritual, perspective; and, there is much in the life of our Lord in the new that was not in the old. It only adds to our richness that we now have both. I think it is unfortunate that some see the new as less valid than the old, or think that only the old can be celebrated beautifully. We don't need to rehearse again the catalogue of abuses that followed in the wake of the Council, but we can very positively set about making the new as beautiful as was the old (when it was done beautifully - which wasn't always!). Perhaps, just perhaps, the new translation will set a different tone.
  • Bruce E. Ford
    Posts: 412
    The novus ordo provides four lessons on Sundays. The responsorial psalm is in origin a lesson and is long enough to be considered a lesson. Also, the novus ordo lessons are on average longer than those of the vetus ordo.

    It is regrettable that the introits, offertories, and communions are so seldom sung in novus ordo celebrations. But if the issue is the AMOUNT of scripture being read, these snippets do not affect the balance very much.

    I agree with SOME of Dobszay's criticisms of the new lectionary. I think there ought to be more occasions on which the same lessons or at least the same Gospels are read every year. If a celebration centers around an event (such as the Baptism of Christ), and one Gospel account is more complete or edifying than the others, I see no reason not to read the "best" account every year and relegate the others to the office.

    But I know that much more scripture has become intimately familiar to me since the three-year lectionary was introduced. And I have no reason to suspect that the experience of others is significantly different.

    Enriching the weekday lectionary is not an adequate strategy for opening the treasures of the Bible to the faithful. What percentage of them regularly attend weekday masses?

    The greater number of saints days in the old calendar did not have much impact on the amount of scripture read. More often than not the lessons were drawn from "commons." Priests have told me how tired they had become of reading the lessons from the same commons over and over again.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    Certainly not all of the O.T. Lessons are drawn from the old Introits. But some of the are.

    I do like the addition of the O.T. Lesson. I just think there could have been much more thought put into their selection. I don't think it helps the faithful that much when the First Lesson only previews the Gospel, and then the new Resp. Ps. is picked to reiterate the same theme.

    So much more could be done that hasn't. My years at O.L.W. gave me a lot of insight into possibilities. But I don't see much of the incredible richness of the entire Bible being utilized by those in power to prescribe our Lectionary Readings.

    I've heard "liturgists" tell me that many of the Psalms were written for personal reflection, and aren't suitable for congregational worship! That is supposedly why only 1/3 of the Psalter is represented in the current Lectionary. Even the wonderful Ps. 119 is only used a couple of times, and even then a mish-mash rather than any complete 8-verse section!

    And why are certain sections of the Gospels omitted, or relegated to the weekdays when so few people hear them? Are all reference to "kingship" eradicated because they offend our "democratic" sensibilities. I recall a member of O.L.W. recounting his experience down at the Episcopal Cathedral bookstore: He had purchased a large print RSV - Oxford Annotated Bible, and decided he would go ahead and get it blessed. The "priestess" he asked for help then pronounce a blessing on the Readings contained in the Episcopal Lectionary that were contained in that Bible - as if not all of the verses therein could she bless in some sort of good conscience. Have we been given only verses from the Bible that our modern liturgists agree with? Are the people who teach us the Bible within the context of the Liturgy afraid to answer hard questions on certain parts of the Bible? Did they just want to give us SOME more Readings to keep us from getting bored at Mass in the vernacular, but couldn't see their way to giving us the whole thing?

    Maybe the beauty of the Old Mass is that the Readings do only scratch the surface - just enough to prepare us to transcend and receive Christ in Communion. Maybe the entire Mass should be approached as so much more a Ritual than a Sunday School Hour. ISTM that is the same direction we are talking about in bringing the music that IS the Mass back - the RITUAL - and get away from all this banal, vernacular babbling.
  • Uh, the OF Mass Ordinary is also "saturated with scripture". It might not always be the same as is found in the EF, but there's still plenty of Scripture on our lips (and on the priest's lips).