Readings for Mass
The Lectionary for MassThe bishops of the Second Vatican Council declared – "The treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly so that a richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word. In this way the more significant part of the Sacred Scriptures will be read to the people over a fixed number of years" Sacrosanctum Concilium, #51
The book that contains all of the readings from the Holy Bible, organized for Sunday and Daily Masses, as well as special Masses for various reasons and occasions, is known as the Lectionary.
Sunday Mass Readings
At each Sunday Mass, we hear four passages of Holy Scripture.
The First Reading is from the Old Testament, except during the Easte Season, when the first reading comes from the book of Acts in the New Testament.
Following the First Reading is the Responsorial Psalm, which is generally sung at our weekend Masses (except at the 8 AM Mass.) It is referred to as a “Responsorial” psalm because the cantor sings a verse, and then the congregation responds with a short chorus, which we call the “antiphon.”
The Second Reading is from the Epistles (“letters”) of the New Testament or the book of Revelation, written by Paul, Peter, John, and James.
Then we sing the Gospel Acclamation, which is an “Alleluia,” except during Lent when a different acclamation is sung. This Alleluia includes a small verse from the Gospel about to be read at the Mass.
The Gospel reading comes from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, the books of the “Four Evangelists.”
The First Reading, the Psalm, and the Gospel typically have the same theme or relate to a similar topic. The Second Reading is not planned to be related to the Gospel, because it follows a different pattern of semi-continuous reading of the New Testament.
The Three Year Cycle of Sunday Readings
The readings for the Sunday Masses are on a three year Cycle, which we refer to as Cycle A, B, and C. During Cycle A, the readings are primarily from Matthew; Year B – Mark; Year C – Luke. John's Gospel is read mostly in Advent, Lent, and Easter. Our Epiphany music director is in the habit of referring to the Sunday lectionary cycles as the “Reigns of the Archangels Gabriel (A), Michael (B), and Raphael (C).”
The Lectionary cycle does not follow the secular calendar. Each cycle begins on the first Sunday of Advent. The Sunday cycle ends on the Solemnity of Christ the King (the Sunday before the First Sunday of Advent.)
Daily Mass Readings
The readings for the daily Masses are on a two year schedule unrelated to the Sunday cycles, referred to as Year 1 and Year 2.
Daily Masses have 2 readings and a Psalm. The First Reading is a semi-continuous reading that alternates between the Old Testament and the New Testament over the two-year cycle. The Gospels are semi-continuous readings over the two year cycle from Mark, Matthew, and Luke (in that order.
How much Scripture is in the Lectionary for Mass?
If you go to daily Mass, as well as Sunday Mass, over the three year Sunday cycle and two year daily cycle you will hear 90% of the four Gospels, about 55% of the rest of the New Testament, and an estimated 13% of the Old Testament, except for the Book of Psalms. Over half of the book of Psalms is found in the Lectionary,
The website of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops has an Online Lectionary with the Sunday and Daily lectionary readings.