Why we Read what we Read on Sunday

You may wonder why the Church chooses a particular reading for each Sunday. You may even have noticed that on particular days throughout the year, the reading is always the same.  Then again, you may never have thought about which reading is chosen, but we should all know that it is not random.

In general, the entire New Testament (with the exception of the Book of Revelation) is broken up into small sections and spread throughout the entire year, to be read “bit by bit” each day. This cycle of readings, called the Church Lectionary, begins each year on the Sunday of Pascha, beginning with the Gospel of John and the Book of Acts. These are the readings you see listed on the wall calendar published by the Church each year. We also find these readings listed in various smartphone apps, and other technologies used by the Church. The entire Orthodox World using the same lectionary. That means, for example, on the fifteenth Thursday after Pascha, the same reading is read in every Orthodox Church throughout the world. 

Sometimes, unfortunately, which reading is chosen for a particular day can be a bit confusing. It isn’t random, but it can be confusing. Today, particularly can be confusing when it comes to the readings of the Church. Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, but it is also the Sunday before the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, and the Church has readings for both days included in the services. This morning during Orthros we heard the reading for the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, and during Divine Liturgy we heard the readings for the Feast of the Sunday before the Holy Cross.

I hear too often that the Orthodox Church doesn’t spend enough energy focusing on the Holy Scriptures, but this is not true. Not only do we read the entire New Testament each year, if we are following the advice of the Church, the very words of the Divine Liturgy we pray each Sunday, are taken entirely from the Holy Scriptures. If we want to spend more time reading and praying the Holy Scriptures, we need only to live the Orthodox Christian life as offered by the Church. We need only to pray the Divine Liturgy rather than just letting the Priest and Choir perform for us on Sunday.

As we continue to make this year an Acceptable Year of the Lord, I invite you to make full use of the resources the Church has to offer. Begin attending more services and you will begin to notice just how much Holy Scripture is around every corner, filling every moment. Eventually you will notice, “Hey, I recognize that verse! It must be the Feast of the Holy Cross,” and eventually you won’t be quite so confused.


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