From a Canterbury Tales reader named Keri:
I have a question for you with regards to the Latin Mass. I was once told by a priest in a graduate level sacraments class that the Scripture readings at the Latin Mass cover only 17% or so of the New Testament in , whereas, the Novus Ordo readings cover about 90% of the New Testament and much more of the Old Testament than was covered in the Latin Mass.
Is this true or have the readings for the Latin Mass also been “updated” or is this a confused claim?
Keri, this is a good question.
Yes, more Bible verses are read in the new (Novus Ordo) lectionary than with the old lectionary. Most assume that since the new lectionary has more Bible verses, it is therefore better. I used to agree with this and use it as an advantage point for the New Mass.
I hope you don’t find me curmudgeonly, but I no longer find the “more Bible is a better Mass” to be a satisfying argument.
For example, do Catholics in 2012 know the Bible better than Catholics in 1912? I’d argue that the Catholics of 1912 knew the Bible better – even with their smaller lectionary of readings.
One must ask, what is the purpose of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? The readings should highlight something for the day – especially if it is a special feast or saints day.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass contains Scripture, but it is not essentially a Bible study, and the Church has never held that the Mass was the context by which we worked through the entire Bible. Originally, it was the Divine Office that served this purpose. What we have seen is the expanding of Bible readings in Holy Mass and the lessing of Bible readings in the Liturgy of the Hours/Divine Office. The debate about the lectionary should always take into account the entire public liturgy…which includes the Divine Office cycle.
Those are just some thoughts. Feel free to to disagree with me. Personally, I read the Bible on my own (100%) and appreciate the briefer but hand-selected texts for the feastdays in the old rite. Again, these are simply my preferences, but I would gladly submit to whatever Holy Mother Church instructed me to do. She is the ark of salvation and the Pope is the Vicar of Christ. My place is to listen humbly and hope for Heaven. Thank you for the great question.
PS: I hope to write a post on the performative oblationary aspect of Mass readings in the future. The readings are, in a sense, read back to God. This sounds strange to modern ears, but it is certainly something assumed in the older rite.