Hear His Most Holy Word
The BAS Lectionary: the closing of the Bible?
By the Rev'd David
~ FIVE QUESTIONS ~
(1) WHAT IS THE BAS
(2) DOES THE BAS
LECTIONARY PRESENT A GREATER AMOUNT OF SCRIPTURE?
(3) HOW ADEQUATE IS
THE BAS' USE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT?
(4) HOW ADEQUATE IS
THE BAS' USE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT?
(5) HOW ECUMENICAL
IS THE BAS LECTIONARY?
BOOK OF ALTERNATIVE SERVICES
weaknesses of the Book of Alternative Services (BAS) Lectionary appear in
the claims made for it, in the programme of Scripture reading it presents,
and in the principles upon which that programme depends. These are
practical and theoretical problems which also mark a significant departure
from the principles of the Common Prayer tradition in the understanding and
use of Scripture as embodied in the Book of Common Prayer (Canada, 1962).
A further problem is that the BAS not only departs from, but
also misunderstands and misrepresents the nature and place of
Scripture within that tradition.
(1) WHAT IS
THE BAS LECTIONARY?
BAS Lectionary is an amended version of the Roman Catholic Ordo Lectionum
Missae (OLM) 1969. The ecumenical Consultation on Common Texts (CCT)
issued their amended version of OLM in 1983 "for a three-year trial period
ending 1 December 1986". The Common Lectionary, the Church Hymnal
Corporation, New York, NY, 10017, p.13) with the expectation of issuing a
final ecumenical version in 1987. The "Common Lectionary", as it
appears in the BAS. is actually an experimental version in the process
towards an ecumenical lectionary.
CCT and our Canadian revisors ecumenical means identical practice in the
reading of Holy Scripture. The BAS preface on the "Propers of the
Church Year" speaks of "a final revision around the end of the decade" (BAS
word lectionary refers to an ordered programme of Scripture readings for the
public worship of the Church. OTM and the "Common Lectionary" revision
of OTM present a three-year cycle of three readings "for the principal acts
of worship" on each Sunday of the year BAS. p.263). The Common
Prayer tradition, on the other hand, understands the word lectionary in a
broader, more comprehensive sense as embracing readings provided not only
for the Holy Eucharist on Sundays and "all the week after" (BCP p.94) and
Holy Days, but also for the Sunday and week day offices of Morning and
interrelation and interdependence of these programmes of readings and the
comprehensive doctrinal unity which they form is the fruit of a four
hundred-year development within the framework of Scripture understood as a
doctrinal instrument of salvation. Such a development, moreover,
maintains a remarkable continuity with the eucharistic lectionaries of the
Western Church from the Patristic period onwards. It belongs to the
whole tradition of a doctrinal understanding of Scripture.
the BAS provides various cycles of readings for the offices, daily
Eucharists and other purposes, it regards these, not as integral, but "in
addition to the lectionary" and calls them "other guides" BAS, p.264).
These "other guides" form independent cycles unrelated to each other and to
the BAS lectionary to which they are simply an addition. Thus, even in
definition, the BAS lectionary stands apart from the lectionary tradition of
the Book of Common Prayer.
DOES THE BAS
LECTIONARY PRESENT A GREATER AMOUNT
BAS' claim to present a greater amount of Scripture than ever before needs
serious qualification. on the one hand, the three-year lectionary with
three readings obviously provides more Scripture when simply compared to the
one-year two lesson BCP eucharistic lectionary. But, on the other
hand, the comparison is improper. It is like comparing apples and
Oranges, or finding fault with apple barrels for not containing oranges.
BCP eucharistic lectionary is the centrepiece of a larger, more
comprehensive system of Scripture reading, which in the course of a single
year vixtially covers the entrre corpus of the Old Testament at least once
and the complete body of the New Testament more than twice.
similar claim cannot be made for the BAS lectionary, even with its "other
guides", for essentially two reasons: first, the cycle of readings "for use
at daily offices provide shorter and fewer readings than their predecessors"
BAS p.265); and second, the degree of liberty given in either omitting or
allowing to be edited out certain passages of the Old and New Testaments
both in the daily offices and at the Eucharist.
BCP, moreover, does not so much seek to provide a great quantity of
Scripture at the eucharist as to present the fulness of saving doctrine.
Thus, the first half of the year from Advent to Pentecost follows what one
may call the substantial or doctrinal moments of Christ's life. We
"run' as it were, through a great part of the Creed" (Bp. Sparrow,
17th cent.), learning what Christ has done for us. The essential
mysteries of the Christian Religion are set before us.
second half of the year from Trinity to Advent seeks the practical
application of Christ's saving work in us, the Creed runing through us, as
it were. It urges the life of holiness through the practice of
doctrinal completeness in the one and the practical application in the other
were the express concerns of the architects and commentators of the Prayer
Book. The Epiphany season and the Trinity season specifically were
areas where they improved upon what they had received. They saw that
our incorporation into the life of Christ meant the interrelation of the
principles of justification and sanctification.
one of the three years of the BAS eucharistic lectionary compares
unfavourably with the BCP on this criterion of the presentation of the
fullness of saving doctrine. The intentional and doctrinal integrity
of one-half the year have been lost in the BAS by virtue of the adoption of
the logic or Ordinary Time, which, as we shall see, has a necessarily
accidental or arbitrary quality to it.
BAS lectionary's claim to be "spreading a much larger body of biblical
material" hangs upon its three-year cycle and its inclusion of an Old
Testament lesson. But the shortness of the lessons at the eucharist
significantly qualifies even the force of this rather obvious claim.
Their "much" may be more, but not much more. More importantly, it may
be doctrinally less full.
(3) HOW ADEQUATE IS THE BAS' USE OF THE OLD
important claim for the BAS lectionary is its provision of an Old Testament
lesson at the eucharist While this has been popularly received, nonetheless
the way in which it has been conceived makes this one of the major
weaknesses of the BAS lectionary. The problem is that it presupposes
what it claims to provide. It presupposes a far greater acquaintance
with the Old Testament than it can possibly provide.
shall see, one of the principal areas of ecumenical difference within the
intended ecumenical scope of the Common Lectionary concerns the way in which
the Old Testament is read. The reason for these divergences points to
a weakness in conception at the heart of all the modern lectionaries,
including that of the BAS. It is not that an Old Testament lesson has
been included which constitutes the problem, but the principles upon which
the reading of it has been ordered.
felt weakness of the Roman Catholic OLM was with its representative and
overly typological use of the Old Testament OLM determines the appointment
of the Old Testament reading according to the theme of the gospel lection
which qualifies both the integrity of the Old Testament in itself and much
of its narrative character (The Common Lectionary, p.19). Thus CCT
sought to amend these tendencies by extending OLM's principle of
semi-continuous reading for the New Testament lesson and the Gospel in
Ordinary Time to the Old Testament in Ordinary Time.
Certain consequences necessarily follow from this CCT amendment.
First, it means that for one-half the year all three lessons are in
principle unrelated since all three follow their own independent,
semi-continuous course. Second, the semi-continuous course of reading
the old testament is so semi as to be just as unrepresentative of the Old
Testament as OLM's more typological or thematic selection.
means that the progress through any given book of the Old Testament in
Ordinary Time is extremely sketchy. In Year A, for example, 9 verses
of Genesis 12 are read, 18 verses Genesis 22, 15 verses of Genesis 25, 7
verses of Genesis 28 and 10 verses of Genesis 32. This really amounts
to little more than a chapter of a book that has fifty chapters and yet this
completes the treatment of Genesis in Ordinary time for Year A according to
this semi-continuous plan intended to do justice to the integrity of Old
Testament books in their own character.
treatment of Genesis in Year A is hardly well supplemented by the Ordinary
Time selections in Year B and Year C which only provide four additional
short lessons from Genesis 1,2,3 and Genesis 45 respectively. From the
reading of Genesis in Year A, the lectionary moves on to read on 13 Sundays
parts of 11 chapters of Exodus, three of Ruth one of Amos Zephaniah and
major prophetic book such as Ezekiel gets remarkably short shrift in the
entire three-year cyde of the lectionary. In three years there are
only seven lections appointed from Ezekiel and one of them is twice
repeated, but as an option: In Year A, Lent V has Ezekiel 37, 1-14 to be
read; the same lesson is allowed as a Pentecost Year B option and as an
option at the Easter Vigil.
such a programme the CCT lectionary as found in the BAS endeavours to
overcome "the too highly stressed typology" The Common Lectionary p.21) in
OLM's scheme in order to accommodate the non-liturgical Protestant
denominations, especially Black American Churches. The irony is that
these churches have neither lectionary traditions nor the legacy of the
daily offices. Most Anglicans defer where they have rnost to offer?
The CCT amended version, moreover, claims to be more representative of the
Old Testament, but such a programme neither does Justice to the Old
Testament itself nor to the principle of semi-continuous reading.
is, moreover, a practical problem of great significance that appears most
dramatically in the appointment of Old Testament lessons both at the
eucharist and in the offices. The degree of leaping around within the
Old Testament texts appointed to be read makes it very difficult to read
from the Bible directly. The BAS points to the need for lectionary
texts which effectively close the Bible to the people.
example for Year C, Proper 24, the Sunday between 11 and 17 September,the
eucharistic lectionary appoints Hosea 4.1-3; 5.15-6.6; For Year B, proper
19, the Sunday between 7 and 13 August it appoints 2 Samuel 18.1, 5, 9-15.
At the Easter Vigil Genesis 7.1-5; 11-18; 8.18; 9.8-13 is appointed as a
these instances the problem is not necessarily the actual content of what
has been omitted so much as the practical difficulty of reading such
selections from the Bible itself. The solution which the BAS clearly
presupposes is the publication of lectionary texts and/or leaflet inserts
which have the serious consequence of both obscuring the actual character of
the biblical texts in their integrity and effectively taking the Bible out
of the hands of the people.
problem also presents itself to a remarkable degree in the Sunday and Daily
Office lectionaries. The difficulty of determining what is to be read
and when is compounded by the difficulty of actually reading the lessons
examples suffice to illustrate this problem. On the Sunday of Proper
23, the Sunday between 4 and 10 September, Job 25.1-6; 27.1-6 is appointed
to be read as the Old Testament lesson in Year Two. On Palm Sunday
Zechariah 12.9-11; 13.1,7-9 is ordered to be read. On the Sunday of
Proper 21, the Sunday between 21 and 27 August provides that in Year One 2
Samuel 24.1-2; 10-25 be read. On the Thursday of the Week of Sunday
between 28 August and 3 September, Proper 22, Job 16.16-22; 17.1, 13-16 is
appointed to be read in Year Two. On the Wednesday of the Week of the
Sunday between 4 and 10 September, Proper 23, in Year Two Job 29.1; 30.1-2,
16-31 is appointed. 2 Chronicles 29.1-3; 30.1(2-9) 10-27 is appointed
in Year One on the Tuesday of the Week of Sunday between 25 September and 1
October, Proper 26!
are but a few examples of the many that the BAS Daily Office Lectionary
presents. The difficulty is not Simply that upon occasion a lesson is
provided edited from the biblical text per se, but the remarkable degree of
frequency with which this is done in the BAS.
degree of leaping about is at least four times greater in the BAS than the
BCP, (where some allowances are made in the daily offices and Sunday
offices, usually for the reading of the Old Testament as, for example, on
the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, Year two, at Morning Prayer the first
lesson is Ezekiel 18.14, 19-end). The far greater extent of this in
the BAS makes saying the offices practically difficult, awkward and
frustrating. It makes public reading from the Bible difficult and
some respects, however, the BAS should be commended for avoiding the more
glaring errors of omission found in the OLM eucharistic lectionary and in
the version used by the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. For example,
the core and conclusion of the parable of the talents, Matthew 25.14-30,
omitted by these churches, have been rightly restored in the BAS.
by comparison to those lectionaries, the amended version in the BAS allows
for considerably less leaping around within biblical texts, though their
less is still too much. Yet they all share substantially the same
premises and present similar practical difficulties. They all compare
unfavourably in practice and in principle with the doctrinal character of
the Prayer Book eucharistic lectionary, as discussed above.
inclusion of an Old Testament lesson at the eucharist is, no doubt, a
response to a pastoral need. But how adequate a response is it? For
many, the mere provision of the Old Testament lesson at the eucharist argues
for the new lectionary over the oh What is being questioned here, however,
is not the idea of an Old Testament lesson at the eucharist, but the
principle of the selection of Old Testament texts and the subsequent claims
being made for that provision. It simply cannot do what it claims to
BAS is disingenuous in as seeing the superiority of this new lectionary over
the old on the basis of such a provision. The attraction of the Old
Testament eucharistic lesson actually arises from the general neglect of the
Sunday and Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer by clergy and laity
Sunday office lectionary in the Common Prayer tradition does provide what
the BAS claims but falls to provide in the way of a real acquaintance with
the major and substantial portions of the Old Testament. But apart
from simply reading the Old Testament, the daily offices of Morning Prayer
and Evening Prayer really provide the only regular means of gaining a proper
knowledge of the Old Testament.
problem that the BAS faces is simply the impossibility of providing at the
eucharist what can only be properly provided through the offices What seems
to be overlooked is the sheer size of the Old Testament - it is about four
or five times the length of the New Testament~ Moreover, to relegate the
necessary programme of scriptural reading in the offices simply to the
status of "other guides" undermines the coherence and interrelation of the
Prayer Book programme of Scripture reading and departs from the scriptural
heart of the Common Prayer tradition.
provision of an Old Testament lesson at the Eucharist does not logically
demand the jettisoning of the Prayer Book eucharistic lectionary. The
Prayer Book idea of Scripture as a doctrinal instrument of salvation,
embodied centrally in the eucharistic lectionary, can easily accommodate the
addition of an Old Testament lesson appointed in accord with the logic of
that lectionary itself.
only has this been done by the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon
in 1960 and also specifically for Canada by the Rev. Michael Averyt,
but it must further be emphasized that inso doing the scriptural basis of
the Prayer Book tradition is not traduced but enhanced. Such a
provision does not admit what the BAS irresponsibly calls "the shortcomings
of the eucharistic readings". Rather such a provision could mean a
responsible answer to a pastoral problem from within the Common Prayer
tradition but without devaluing the ideal of the offices in their right
relation to the eucharist.
ADEQUATE IS THE BAS' USE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT?
dominance of modern biblical criticism appears most clearly and most
questionably in the appointment of New Testament readings in the BAS
eucharistic lectionary as well as in the "other guides". Scripture is
ordered to be read less according to the doctrine of Scripture and more
according to the hypotheses of modern biblical criticism.
three-year cycle itself assumes the priority of the synoptic gospels and
designates each year to a synoptic gospel: Year A - Matthew Year B - Mark
Year C - Luke This three-year cycle is based upon what is called the
synoptic problem and assumes as fact the scholarly hypothesis of "Q" -
Quelle, source, namely, that a pre-gospel narrative source underlies and
predates the actual gospel texts. "Q" is the premise upon which some
scholars would re-order the form of the gospel and / or dispute the
authenticity and authority of major portions of the gospels.
must be emphasized that no-one has ever seen "Q". It has been posited
hypothetically by some biblical scholars as a means of explaining parallels
between the three gospels. It has been the single most dogmatic point
of contemporary biblical scholarship. But dogmatic insistence upon "Q"
cannot prove its existence.
as we shall see, is its necessity assumed by all scholars. Yet,
surely, it is a matter of real concern that the Church's ordered reading of
the Gospel be based upon a non-doctrinal but dogmatic hypothesis about text
transmission over and against the doctrinal interest in content and teaching
that informs the traditional eucharistic lectionaries of the Western Church.
dogmatic assertion of "Q" directly affects the programme of gospel reading
in the BAS' three-year cycle. It shows itself most decisively in Year
B - the year of Luke. St. Mark's gospel is the shortest gospel.
The criterion of selection for gospel readings during Ordinary Time is not
thematic but semi-continuous. There are thirty-four Sundays in
one might reasonably suppose that reading progressively Sunday by Sunday,
chapter by chapter, all sixteen chapters of St. Mark's gospel would
easily be completed with Sundays left over. But it is not so.
the BAS, following OLM the semi-continuous reading of St. Mark's
gospel is interrupted from the 17th to the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time by a
series of readings from the sixth chapter of St. John's gospel - the
so called "bread of life" discourse. This incursion of an
eucharistical theme into the midst of the semi-continuous course of Mark is
justified by Rome (OLM) on the assumption that this is where John's gospel
naturally matches the order of events in the synoptic gospels.
American commentary "Preaching the New Common Lectionary" observes that "at
this point we have a tradition that had already forged three stories into
one narrative prior to the work of the Four Evangelists" (emphasis added).
Such is pure hypothesis and, however interesting it may be, it remains
exactly how is it useful in the sense of serving the purposes of doctrinal
instruction and moral edification? Both the integrity of the gospel texts
and their doctrinal unity as Revelation are undermined by the dominance of
this hypothesis in the ordering of the Church's lectionary.
Further support for this insertion of John 6 into the course of Mark is
provided by those biblical scholars who question the place of the bread of
life discourses (Ch. 6) in St. John's gospels (i.e.
Bultmann, Wikenhauser, Schnackenburg, etc.). Removing it altogether
from its gospel context avoids any such difficulty for them as to whether
Chapter V should or should not be Chapter VI by placing the discourse
instead within the hypothetical order of the hypothetical gospel of "Q".
manuscript tradition supports this hypothetical reconstruction. At the
very least, then, there are problems about the use of the hypothetical "Q"
in the Church's ordered reading of the Gospel. There is a flirther
irony. We are urged to adopt a lectionary based upon this hypothesis
at a point when biblical scholarship is more critical of its dominance.
recent review of the first four volumes of the 'Understanding Jesus Today'
series, Prof. J. Leslie Houlden of King's College, London
criticizes their total and exclusive assumption of "Q". "While this
so-called Q source is believed in by most scholars of the Gospels, it
remains hypothetical (in the sense that it has never turned up), and other
views about the relationship of the first three Gospels, eliminating the
need for Q are widely held. None of this is even hinted at" TLS May
10, 1991). Nor is it even questioned, it seems, in the ordering of the
such questions may belong to the activity of modern biblical criticism, the
assumptions inherent in the form of that scholarship remain inimical to the
use of Scripture as a 'doctrinal instrument of salvation'. The phrase
derives from Cranmer and Hooker and describes the principle underlying the
Prayer Book tradition of reading the Scriptures. It means that
Scripture has a content, that it is thinkable and that its intelligible
content is doctrine.
hypothesis of "Q" and the hypothetical re-ordering of the Gospel material
assume that the teaching of Scripture must be other than the actual texts
themselves. Such hypotheses run counter to our Anglican standpoint
that "Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation" (Art VI), that
nothing is to be ordained "that is contrary to God's Word written" (emphasis
added), and that "one place of Scripture" is not to be so ex-pounded "that
it be repugnant to another" (Art XX).
Insofar as these hypotheses undermine the doctrinal character and content of
Scripture, they have no place in the programme of the Church's reading of
the Revealed Word of God. They show that the Church which formerly
placed herself under the rule and authority of Scripture has come to
arrogate unto herself the role of judge and arbiter of Scripture. The
reed of human experience has supplanted the rod of Revelation.
consequence is the omission of those parts of Holy Writ deemed unacceptable
to contemporary sensitivities and modern assumptions. This appears
most clearly in the treatment of the New Testament presented in the Daily
Office lectionary. The Canadian BCP provides that the New Testament be
read through at least twice every year, excepting the Book of Revelation
which is read through once.
BAS departs considerably from the BCP in not appointing the New Testament to
be read through in its entirety even once in a year. That the BAS
should even allow for omissions from the New Testament marks a substantial
departure from the developed Prayer Book tradition present in our Canadian
BCP. The passages that are omitted or allowed to be omitted also
reveal much about the contemporary spirit of today's church.
following passages of the New Testament are omitted altogether from the
Daily Office lectionary of the BAS:
11.26: Romans 1.26,27; 1 Corinthians 11. 9-11; 1 Corinthians 11.3-16;
1 Corinthians 14.33-36; Philippians 4.21-23; Colossians 4.7-18; 1 Timothy
2.9-15; 1 Timothy 5.1-16; 1 Timothy 6.1-5; 1 Peter 3.1-12;
following passages are allowed to be omitted if so desired: Luke 16.18; 2
Corinthians 6.14-7.1; 1 Timothy 5.23-25 and 1 John 5.21.
than just suggesting the dominance of modern biblical criticism and the
ascendancy of sexual, feminist and political liberationist ideologies within
the church, they really signal the intellectual poverty of the contemporary
church which is so unable to think these passages that it must pretend that
they don't exist.
omissions also show up in the eucharistic lectionary. For example, the
Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C, appoints Rev. 22.12-14, 16-17, 20 to
be read. The verses omitted concern the exclusion of the wicked from
the heavenly city; and - ironically - a warning against those who add to or
subtract from the text of Scripture!
of the most obvious features of difference between the BAS and the BCP is
that, apart from the Psalter, Scripture itself is absent from the BAS.
The scriptural centrepiece of the Prayer Book - the Epistles and Gospels
together with their appropriate Collects - are not printed and indeed, are
removal of the Bible from the people equally results in the separation of
prayer from Scripture. The Collects now free-float in liturgical
space, removed from any direct connection to particular passages of
Scripture from which prayer properly finds it voice.
suggests that the liturgy itself stands apart from the Scriptures, no longer
under its rule, no longer subject to the primacy of its content, no longer
the vehicle and expression of its truth. The very principles ordering
the reading of God's Word written are external to the teaching and character
of Scripture itself. They do not derive from Scripture but are imposed
upon it from without.
IS THE BAS LECTIONARY?
of the claims made for the "Common Lectionary" in the BAS is that it is an
ecumenical lectionary. This claim expresses more a wish than a fact
This lectionary has not been commonly received either ecumenically between
various Christian churches or even within the Anglican Communion. In
England, for example, there are currently three different lectionaries in
use: the Book of Common Prayer lectionary, a two year cycle lectionary and
the BAS' three-year cycle. In North America, the Episcopal Church of
the U.S.A. uses its own version of the OLM while in Canada, the BAS
presents the CCT amended version of OLM, with a few alterations of its own.
means, for example, with respect to the Old Testament readings in Ordinary
Time (Epiphany season and Trinity or Pentecost season) that in Year A there
are only three, in Year B, six and in Year C, five Sundays in which the same
Old Testament lesson is read by BAS users in the Anglican Church of Canada,
by the Roman Catholic Church and by the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.
is it the case that the same Old Testament lessons are read but simply on
different Sundays. For the greater part of Ordinary Time,
approximately one-half of the year, the Old Testament lessons are completely
different between two churches of the same communion on the same continent.
choice of Old Testament lessons shows differences in principle about the use
of the Old Testament in relation to the New Testament. Such
differences will not be easily resolved. In point of fact, our
adoption of the "Common Lectionary" renders us uncommon with Rome - with
whom it was wished to be in common - and with other parts of the Anglican
further complication are the different Systems for numbering the Sundays in
Ordinary Time and the numbering of the Propers (i.e., the designated
readings) for those Sundays. For example, what in the BAS is
designated as the "Ninth Sunday after Epiphany or between 29 May and 4 June"
for which Proper 9 is appointed, is called "Proper 4 The Sunday closest to
June 1st" in the 1979 American prayer book, and the "Ninth Sunday in
Ordinary Time" in OLM.
differences in numbering reflect different sensibilities about the ordering
of the Calendar of the Church Year for those parts of the year which may
vary in length. OLM swallows up the Epiphany season and Trinity or
Pentecost season into what it calls Ordinary Time and numbers those Sundays
accordingly. It begins with the Feast of Our Lord's Baptism on the
First Sunday after Epiphany which it calls the First Sunday in Ordinary
Time, proceeds until Lent and then resumes after Pentecost.
Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. has wanted to retain at least in name
the idea of an Epiphany season and so follows a system of numbered proper
for the greatest possible number of Sundays after Pentecost But because the
number of such Sundays may vary each year the "proper number" will not
always coincide with the number of the Sunday after Pentecost.
example, in 1991, the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost uses Proper Six, but in
1992 Proper Nine. Thus, the naming of Sundays after Pentecost becomes
irrelevant for determining what propers are to be used. Instead, it
OF ALTERNATIVE SERVICES
BAS creates a third system by attempting to combine the Roman system and the
American. It keeps the names of Sundays after Epiphany, Sundays after
Pentecost and it adopts the numbering system of Propers, only it begins to
number with the Baptism of Our Lord (First Sunday after Epiphany) - Proper
1. As with OLM and the Episcopal Church's lectionary, so too with the
BAS there is no integral connection between the season, the Sundays within
the season and the propers of the day for those Sundays after Epiphany and
those after Pentecost.
further ecumenical difference appears in the appointment of the gospel
accounts of Our Lord's Transfiguration which the Episcopal Church sets for
the Last Sunday after Epiphany but Rome places on the Second Sunday in Lent.
The Consultation on Common Texts both acknowledges this as "the place of
widest divergence", and admits that at issue in part is the integrity and
character of these seasons versus Ordinary Time (The Common Lectionary,
p.13). The BAS does not determine a fixed "Last Sunday after Epiphany"
and so does not end "Epiphany season" with the accounts of the
Transfiguration, but allows them as options for the Second Sunday in Lent.
these differences in the numbering and the naming of these Sundays add to
the general confusion and point to different outlooks which cannot be easily
brought within the compass of one ecumenical system. At present there
is not even common agreement about what to call the Sundays for about half
the year or how to determine what is to be read on these Sundays.
further practical difficulty emerges. The BAS with its many, many
options for liturgy presupposes the regular production of a service bulletin
to provide direction in following the service, together with either several
volumes of pew lectionaries or weekly printed lectionary leaflets.
possibility of securing a library of lectionary texts for church pews and
for printing a weekly service bulletin with a lectionary insert lies beyond
the scope financially and practically of many parishes in the Canadian
Church. The BAS does not accommodate itself conveniently to the
reality of multi point rural parishes.
BAS commits us to an ecumenical lectionary which has yet to be accepted and
for which there are serious obstacles to the possibility of its acceptance,
either ecumenically without or within the Anglican Communion. One of
the practical consequences of OLM and the "Common Lectionary" is the
production of lectionary texts and/or Sunday bulletin leaflets.
for the Roman Catholic Church, with the liturgy now in a multitude of
vernacular languages, and for the Episcopal Church this has meant a
considerable expense and a commitment to what has been printed and
presented. Embracing the "Common Lectionary" would mean jettisoning
volumes of lectionary texts, and pages of lectionary inserts in favour of
printing altogether new ones. How likely is this when there is not
even common agreement about the "Common Lectionary"?
Canadian situation reflects this ecumenical confusion. The BAS preface
records with approval a decision of the 1980 General Synod of the Anglican
Church of Canada requesting that "every diocese and parish, including those
which in other respects substantially follow the Book of Common Prayer give
thoughtful consideration to the possibility of using this lectionary as a
symbol and expression of unity in our Church and with many other Christians"
(BAS p. 264).
is there referred to as "this lectionary" is not in fact the BAS lectionary
but another BAS-based lectionary published and authorized for experimental
use in Canada in 1980. It shares closer similarities with the
Episcopal Churches' lectionary as found in their 1979 Prayer Book.
the BAS would like to claim the 1980 General Synod's resolution for its
lectionary, the motion actually refers to and authorizes the use of the 1980
Lectionary. The differences between the BAS lectionary and the 1980
experimental lectionary are, again, substantially the same as exist between
the BAS and the 1979 American BCP. This motion and its inclusion in
the BAS are important in two other respects. They raise the question
whether the BAS truly is a Book of Alternative Services and not an intended
replacement of the Book of Common Prayer since the BAS here promotes
dropping the programme of Scripture reading which is basic and central to
the character of the BCP.
BAS' preface "The Proper of the Church Year" (p.264) contradicts the
Introduction to the BAS itself (p.8), which commits the Church to the
coexistence of two liturgies, even though they are founded upon radically
different attitudes towards Scripture. Secondly, it shows the degree
of confusion about the lectionary which the BAS promotes and presents.
there are differences in the appointment of Old Testament lessons; that
there are differences about the relation and the integrity of the seasons of
Epiphany and Lent to Ordinary Time; that there are differences about the
numbering and naming for half the Sundays of the year; and that there are
difficulties in the practical provisions for scripture reading in services
of worship, show the extent of the ecumenical confusion.
Consequently, the BAS lectionary is not "a symbol and expression of unity in
our Church" either in Canada, or within the Anglican Communion, or "with
many other Christians". While the BAS lectionary may wish to be
ecumenical, it is not in fact.
the Scriptures are not allowed to be read in their integrity; that the New
Testament Scriptures are not allowed to be read in their entirety; that the
system of reading the Scriptures is so awkward and unwieldy, so complicated
and confused; that the Scriptures have been relegated to the status of "the
repository of the Church's symbols of life and faith" ~AS p.9); that the
interrelation and interdependence of the eucharistic and daily office
lectionaries have been ignored; that the principles ordering the reading of
Scripture do not emerge from the content of Scripture, all these together
represent the closing of the Bible to the people.
practical terms, The Book of Alternative Services represents a return to the
medieval breviary tradition with its many alternatives and usages, its many
texts and tables, its complexity and clutter.
Cranmer and the Common Prayer tradition sought to deliver the Church from
such confusion by restoring to the Church the full force and vigour of the
living Word of God so that by it our lives might be made scriptural, not
conformed to the world but transformed by the renewing of our minds.
For the Scripture of God is the heavenly meat of our souls; the hearing and
keeping of it maketh us blessed, sanctifieth us, and maketh us holy; it
turneth our souls; it is a light lantern unto our feet. It is a sure,
steadfast and everlasting instrument of salvation.
(Cranmer, The First Book of Homilies, A Fruitful Exhortation to the Reading
closing of the Anglican Mind to our Anglican scriptural foundations means
the closing of the Bible.
David P. Curry, 1996.