Explanation of the Orthodox Christian Lectionary

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The source of this information is the website of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in McKinney, Texas. Somewhere in the process of copying and pasting the text onto the page, the formatting got messed up, and no one has noticed yet. Here, I present the same information in a more readable format.

Much of the information (like which scripture selections begin the cycle and how the Sunday, Saturday, and weekday cycles proceed) will be immaterial to the average reader—though good to be familiar with. I’ve highlighted the information that may be important if you’re putting together a reading schedule.

The first half of the text concerns the Gospel lectionary, which, while interesting, is only of use to Deacons and clergy of higher rank. The second half concerns the Epistle lectionary.


Orthodox Christian Scripture Lectionary

An Examination of how the Gospel and Apostolos Lectionary is used throughout the year

The Orthodox Church uses two lectionaries — one for the Gospel, which regulates the four Gospels, and one for the Apostolos, which regulates the other writings of the Apostles, including the acts and the various Epistles, but excluding the Apocalypse (Revelation).

A. The Gospel lectionary.  

a. The Gospel lectionary begins each year on Pascha with the Gospel according to John. This Gospel is read sequentially, for the most part, for fifty days through the Sunday of Pentecost. There are, however, several exceptions to the sequential reading:

  1. On three days, the Gospel lessons are taken from other Gospels:
    1. On Bright Tuesday, from Luke
    2. On the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, from Mark
    3. On Ascension Day, from Luke
  2. The Gospel lessons on the Sundays during this period (except the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers) are all taken from John, but they do not follow any particular sequence.
  3. On certain other days during the fifty-day period, the strict sequential reading from John is broken.

b. Beginning on the Monday after Pentecost (i.e., the Day of the Holy Spirit), the Gospel according to Matthew is read. For this Gospel, there are actually three different sequences:

  1. Sunday readings. These are a selection of readings which follow sequentially through the 17th Sunday after Pentecost
  2. Saturday readings. These are a selection of readings which follow sequentially through the 17th Saturday after Pentecost
  3. Weekday readings. These are almost all of the remaining readings (i.e., not found among the Saturday and Sunday selections), which follow sequentially through Friday of the 11th Week after Pentecost. An exception to the sequential readings occurs on the Day of the Holy Spirit.

c. Beginning on Monday of the 12th Week after Pentecost, the Gospel according to Mark is read sequentially on weekdays through Friday of the 17th Week after Pentecost.

d. Beginning of Monday of the 18th Week after Pentecost, the Gospel according to Luke is read. For this Gospel, there are also three different sequences.

  1. Sunday readings. These are a selection of readings, which follow
  2. sequentially, for the most part, until the beginning of Great Lent.
  3. Exceptions to the sequential readings occur on the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, and the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. Furthermore, on Meatfare Sunday and Cheesefare Sunday, the readings are taken from the Gospel according to Matthew. The sequential readings are interrupted by the special Gospel reading appointed on the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ, and they may be further interrupted by the special Gospel readings appointed for the Sunday after the Nativity and the Sundays both before and after Theophany, depending on the realignment of the lectionary that takes place at that time.
  4. Saturday readings. These are a selection of readings, which follow sequentially until the beginning of Great Lent. An exception to the sequential readings occurs on Cheesefare Saturday, when the reading is taken from the Gospel according to Matthew. The sequential readings may also be interrupted by the special Gospel readings appointed for the Sunday after the Nativity and the Sundays both before and after Theophany, depending on the realignment of the lectionary that takes place at that time.
  5. Weekday readings. These are almost all of the remaining readings (i.e., not found among the Saturday and Sunday selections), which follow sequentially through Friday of the 29th Week after Pentecost and then are resumed again during Cheesefare Week (part of the reading for Monday of Cheesefare Week is out of sequence).

e. Beginning on Monday of the 30th Week after Pentecost, the Gospel according to Mark is read sequentially again, picking up from where it left off on Friday of the 17th Week after Pentecost. The Gospel according to Mark continues to be read on weekdays through Friday of Meatfare Week. One interesting point that should be noted is that the readings from the Gospel according to Mark for the 32nd Week after Pentecost duplicate the readings appointed for the 17th Week after Pentecost.

f. During Great Lent, the Gospel according to Mark is read through the Fifth Week. During this period, there are only two sequences:

  1. Saturday readings. These are a selection of readings, which follow sequentially, except for the First Saturday.
  2. Sunday readings. These are a selection of readings, which follow sequentially, except for the First Sunday, when the lesson is read from the Gospel according to John.

g. Adjustments to the Gospel lectionary.

  1. The first major adjustment takes place after the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. According to the Typicon, the Gospel according to Luke always begins on the Monday following the Sunday after the Exaltation of the Cross. This means that the Gospel readings for the 18th Week after Pentecost always begin on that particular Monday, whether or not the 18th Week actually begins on that day. In those years in which Pascha occurs late, it is possible, therefore, that some Saturday and Sunday readings from the Gospel according to Matthew may be omitted as well as some weekday readings from the Gospel according to Mark. The readings for the 17th Week after Pentecost are omitted the most frequently.
  2. The second major adjustment is the realignment that takes place before the beginning of the Lenten Triodion. Since it affects both the Gospel and the Apostolos lectionaries, it will be discussed separately later (see paragraph 3 below).
  3. There is also a minor adjustment that pertains to the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers (the second Sunday before the Nativity), for which the Gospel reading is always taken from the 28th Sunday after Pentecost. If the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers falls on some Sunday other than the 28th Sunday after Pentecost, the Gospel reading appointed for that other Sunday is read on the 28th Sunday.

A. The Apostolos lectionary.

a. The Apostolos lectionary begins each year on Pascha with the Acts of the Holy Apostles, which are read sequentially, for the most part, for fifty days through the Sunday of Pentecost. There are, however, several exceptions to the sequential reading:

  1. Thomas Sunday
  2. Mid-Pentecost
  3. Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
  4. Ascension Day
  5. Pentecost Sunday
  6. It is also interesting to note that most of Chapter Seven of the Acts of the Apostles is omitted from the lectionary (on the beginning and ending verses are read).

b. Beginning on the Monday after Pentecost (i.e., the day of the Holy Spirit), the Epistles are read sequentially in the same order as given in the English Bible (from Romans to Jude) until the beginning of Great Lent. There are three different sequences:

  1. Sunday readings. These are a selection of readings, which follow sequentially. Exceptions to the sequential readings occur on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, Meatfare Sunday and Cheesefare Sunday. The sequential readings are interrupted by the special Apostolos reading appointed on the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ, and they may be further interrupted by the special Apostolos readings appointed for the Sunday after the Nativity and the Sundays both before and after Theophany, depending on the realignment of the lectionaries that takes place at that time.
  2. Saturday readings. These are a selection of readings, which follow sequentially. Exceptions to the sequential readings occur on Meatfare Saturday and Cheesefare Saturday. The sequential readings may also be interrupted by the special Apostolos readings appointed for the Sunday after the Nativity and the Sundays both before and after Theophany, depending on the realignment of the lectionaries that takes place at that time.
  3. Weekday readings. These are almost all of the remaining readings (i.e., not found among the Saturday and Sunday selections) in sequential order. An exception to the sequential readings occurs on Monday of the Holy Spirit.

c. Adjustment to the Apostolos lectionary.

  1. There is only one major adjustment to the Apostolos lectionary, and that is the realignment that takes place before the beginning of the Lenten Triodion. Since it affects both the Gospel and Apostolos lectionaries, it will be discussed separately later (see paragraph 3 below).
  2. There is also a minor adjustment that pertains to the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers (the second Sunday before the Nativity), for which the Apostolos reading is always taken from the 29th Sunday after Pentecost. If the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers falls on some Sunday other than the 29th Sunday after Pentecost, the Apostolos reading appointed for that other Sunday is read on the 29th Sunday.

c. During Great Lent, the Apostolos readings are take from Hebrews through the Fifth Week. During this period, there are only two sequences:

  1. Saturday readings. These are a selection of readings, which follow sequentially, except for the 3rd Saturday.
  2. Sunday readings. These are a selection of readings, which follow sequentially, except for the 1st Sunday.
  3. On the Saturdays and Sundays before and after the Nativity and Theophany, special readings are appointed. These readings are generally sufficient to cover any gaps that might occur in the lectionary as a result of the realignment with the beginning of the Lenten Triodion. In most cases, the usual Saturday and Sunday lectionaries are interrupted by these special Saturday and Sunday readings. Following the Saturday and Sunday after Theophany, the usual Saturday and Sunday lectionaries are resumed as needed in order to accomplish the realignment with the beginning of the Lenten Triodion. However, when Pascha occurs late, there is a need for readings for one additional Saturday and Sunday. These reading are then taken from the 17th Saturday and Sunday after Pentecost.
  4. On weekdays, the Apostolos and Gospel lectionaries are read through without a break until the readings for Friday of the 33rd Week after Pentecost have been completed. If additional weeks remain until the beginning of the Lenten Triodion, the readings for the final weeks of the Apostolos and Gospel lectionaries are then repeated as needed. It should be noted that the lessons are only repeated on those particular days when there is no readings appointed in the Menaion or when the repeated lesson was previously omitted in connection with the feasts of the Nativity or Theophany (including the day before and after each feast) and the Circumcision.

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