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A lectionary is a book containing Scripture readings (pericopes) that are appointed to be read in Church services according to the cycles of the liturgical year. The lectionary goes back at least to the fourth century, and some of the oldest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament that have survived are Byzantine lectionaries.


The oldest form of the lectionary had the Scripture text with the beginning and ending of each pericope noted in the margin. This is still essentially the format of the Slavic Gospel and Apostol. Contemporary Byzantine lectionaries reflect a further development, in which each pericope is printed in the order in which it is read in the church year. Its beginning is included in the text, and the ending is a clear break.

Lectionary texts

In the Orthodox Church, the lectionary is traditionally found in three books: the Gospel, the Epistle, and the Prophetologion. Of these three texts, only the Prophetologion has not been published in a single text in English. Old Testament readings are typically taken from the Menaion or other texts that contain these readings. There have also been texts containing the Lenten lectionary which have been published in English. One classic text that contains the most commonly used portions of the entire lectionary is "Divine Prayers and Services of the Catholic Orthodox Church of Christ", by Fr. Seraphim Nassar—commonly known as "The Nassar Five-Pounder."

Epistle and Gospel

The readings for the Divine Liturgy are normally found in a Gospel Book (Evangélion) and an Epistle Book (Apostól). In the Byzantine practice, the readings are in the form of pericopes (selections from scripture containing only the portion actually chanted during the service), and are arranged according to the order in which they occur in the church year, beginning with the Sunday of Pascha (Easter), and continuing throughout the entire year, concluding with Holy Week. Then follows a section of readings for the commemorations of Saints and readings for special occasions (Baptism, Funeral, etc.). In the Slavic practice, the biblical books are reproduced in their entirety and arranged in the canonical order in which they appear in the Bible.

The annual cycle of the Gospels is composed of four series:

  • 1. The Gospel of St. John—read from Pascha until Pentecost Sunday
  • 2. The Gospel of St. Matthew—divided over seventeen weeks beginning with the Monday of the Holy Spirit (the day after Pentecost). From the twelfth week, it is read on Saturdays and Sundays while the Gospel of St. Mark is read on the remaining weekdays
  • 3. The Gospel of St. Luke—divided over nineteen weeks beginning on the Monday after the Elevation of the Holy Cross. From the thirteenth week, it is only read on Saturdays and Sundays, while St. Mark's Gospel is read on the remaining weekdays
  • 4. The Gospel of St. Mark—read during the Lenten period on Saturdays and Sundays — with the exception of the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

The interruption of the reading of the Gospel of Matthew after the Elevation of the Holy Cross is known as the "Lukan Jump" The jump occurs only in the Gospel readings, there is no corresponding jump in the Epistle. From this point on the Epistle and Gospel readings do not exactly correspond, the Epistles continuing to be determined according to the moveable Paschal cycle and the Gospels being influenced by the fixed cycle.

The Lukan Jump is related to the chronological proximity of the Elevation of the Cross to the Conception of the Forerunner (St. John the Baptist), celebrated on September 23rd. In late Antiquity, this feast marked the beginning of the ecclesiastical New Year. Thus, beginning the reading of the Lukan Gospel toward the middle of September can be understood. The reasoning is theological, and is based on a vision of Salvation History: the Conception of the Forerunner constitutes the first step of the New Economy, as mentioned in the stikhera of the matins of this feast. The Evangelist Luke is the only one to mention this Conception (Luke 1:5-24).

In Russia, the use of the Lukan Jump vanished; however in recent decades, the Russian Church has begun the process of returning to the use of the Lukan Jump.

Old Testament readings

There are also readings from the Old Testament, called "parables" (Paroemia), which are read at Vespers on feast days. These parables are found in the Menaion, Triodion or Pentecostarion. During Great Lent, parables are read every day at Vespers and at the Sixth Hour. These parables are found in the Triodion.

See also

External links