The lectionary seems to many to be an obvious example of something the OF does better than the EF, but it doesn't take long to see why things aren't so simple. The brevity, and the basis of the selection, of the traditional lectionary have their own advantages. As for swapping one lectionary for another, this would produce an incoherent muddle.
Today I'm publishing a Position Paper for the Una Voce Federation on the Lectionary. Go over to Rorate Caeli to read it.
As I remark there, the claim is often made that the lectionary of the 1970 Missal is an obvious improvement on the old one, on the simple basis that more is better, and the 1970 Missal has more scripture in it. Clearly, however, there are other considerations. First and foremost, the lectionary must make sense liturgically: if we understand that, we will understand the value of the old lectionary, in the context of the old Mass, and why it should be preserved. To replace it with the new lectionary, as if the lectionaries can just be swapped in and out of rites, would be a disaster for the Traditional Mass.
|One of the five extra readings on an Ember Saturday, celebrated in Caversham|
Another suggestion often made is that we should have a cycle of readings for the ferias outside Lent. There were, once, such cycles (though only for three days each week), so it might even seem a 'traditional' thing to do. Before trying to restore things from the distant past (in the Roman Rite, this cycle disappeared in about 13th Century), we should ask why things developed as they did. The answer is, probably (there is no record of a debate, this is one of those things which just happened), that with the rich sanctoral cycle, and the increasing use of Votive Masses, the ferial cycle didn't get much use outside Lent, so it was pretty pointless. If we want to reverse this development, we have to reverse the whole of it: we have to impoverish the sanctoral cycle, and get rid of Votive Masses. Or else render them liturgically incoherent by insisting on readings with no connection with the theme of those Masses. Is that something we really want to do?
Why not say, with Pope Pius XII, that what happened was an organic development which made the liturgy answer the developing needs of the Faithful? And that our needs are pretty well the same: we need the sactoral cycle, because we have lots of saints to celebrate, and we need Votive Masses, because we have lots of devotions to maintain. These two things, the saints and devotions, are major parts of Catholic life and spirituality, and have been since roughly the period in which the ferial cycle dropped out of use. It's not a coincidence.
Here's Pius XII, again:
Just as obviously unwise and mistaken is the zeal of one who in matters liturgical would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation.
This is all not to say that we can't increase our liturgical exposure to the scriptures. There are a couple of suggestions in the paper which deal with this, notably that, in line with the Second Vatican Council, the recitation of the Divine Office be encouraged. The readings of Sunday Matins are, in fact, closely connected with the readings of the Sunday, and serve as a liturgically coherent expansion and commentary on them. This would be a better outlet for our liturgical zeal than reducing the ancient liturgy to a shambles in the attempt to shoehorn more Gospel passages into it.