Saturday, April 21, 2018

Good Shepherd Sunday and the Post-Vatican II Liturgical Reforms

In a recent post on his blog examining the Collect for the 4th Sunday of Easter in the ordinary form, Fr John Zuhlsdorf wrote that:

Those who generally frequent Holy Mass with the traditional form of the Roman Rite heard the Gospel about the Good Shepherd last week. In the Novus Ordo, that Gospel is read this week, for the 4th Sunday of Easter.
It’s really too bad that there is a disconnect. I’m not (sure) why the experts of the Consilium thought it was so important to break the continuity of hundreds of years like that.
So, I thought I would have a quick look in the relevant documentation to see if there was any reason given by Coetus XI of the Consilium [1] for moving Good Shepherd Sunday, and was pleasantly surprised to find more information than I expected.

In early May 1966, when a report was being made to the relators of the Consilium on the work on the lectionary up to then, the following suggestion is made about the readings on the Sundays of Easter:
95. 1° The apparitions of the risen Christ must occupy the principal place. Currently they are recounted on Easter Sunday, the six days of Easter week, and on Low Sunday. The six Gospel readings of Easter week may always be preserved in their traditional place. Nonetheless, they might also be assigned to Easter Sunday (Mark, Luke, John) and the second Sunday [after Easter] (three other Johannine pericopes). Then the pericope of the Good Shepherd would be transferred to the third Sunday [after Easter]. [2]
The minutes of this meeting of the relators record the reactions to this suggestion:
About n. 95: this is admitted by everyone. However: several have petitioned that on Easter Sunday the same Gospel reading from Mark be read. This is urged for ecumenical reasons. In addition, Canon [Aimé-Georges] Martimort would prefer that Acts be read every year. Mgr [Pierre] Jounel proposed that, in the first and second years, Acts is read as the first reading, and, for the third year, Revelation is read as the first reading and Acts as the second reading. Someone also petitioned that the account of the Good Shepherd remain in its traditional location. Concerning these comments, Coetus XI will consider these questions again. [3]
Coetus XI did indeed reconsider the question of Good Shepherd Sunday. Around two months later in July 1966, when the final touches were being put on the proposed order of readings that would be discussed at the seventh general meeting of the Consilium (October), along with the questions to ask the Fathers, the following discussion is recorded:
The apparitions of the risen Christ must occupy the principal place. Currently they are read on Easter Sunday, the six days of Easter week, and on Low Sunday. Two possibilities may be considered here.
The first proposal is that the six Gospel readings in Easter week be kept in their traditional locations.
The alternative proposal is that these same Gospels be read on Easter Sunday (Mark, Luke, John) and the 1st Sunday after Easter/2nd Sunday of Easter (the other three readings from John). The pericope of the Good Shepherd then ought to be transferred from the 2nd Sunday after Easter to the 3rd Sunday after Easter/4th Sunday of Easter...
Concerning this dual proposition, the opinions in the Coetus and among the relators were diverse. The second proposal has the advantage that the different accounts of the apparitions are read on Sundays and would, therefore, be made known to the people, which currently does not happen; the disadvantage is that, in this way, the same pericope is not always read on Easter Sunday, and that the Gospel of the Good Shepherd, as well as Good Shepherd Sunday, must be transferred to the week following, which does not please several [members]. [4]
The Fathers of the Consilium were then asked, in October 1966, about which proposal ought to be accepted. A short explanation of the two proposals was evidently given by Canon Aimé-George Martimort:
Canon Martimort explained three difficulties with the alternative proposal: the three [different] Gospel readings [for each year] on Easter Sunday, then the three [different] Gospel readings on the 2nd Sunday of Easter, and finally the transfer of Good Shepherd Sunday to the 4th Sunday of Easter.
Question 8: Is the alternative proposal pleasing?
All say non placet, with one exception.
Therefore the first proposal is accepted. […]
Question 9: Is the general structure of the readings for the Sundays of Easter pleasing, without prejudice to any particular corrections that may later be made?
All say placet, with one exception. [5]
Thus, the proposal accepted by the Fathers of the Consilium was that Good Shepherd Sunday should remain in its traditional location, as the 3rd Sunday of Easter (2nd Sunday after Easter). We see also that, in the subsequent Ordo lectionum pro dominicis, feriis et festis sanctorum, [6] published pro manuscripto in July 1967 and distributed to every episcopal conference, the participants of the first Synod of Bishops, and around 800 periti (biblical scholars, liturgists, pastors, etc.), that Good Shepherd Sunday is in its traditional location.

Yet, two years later, when the typical edition of the Ordo lectionum Missae was promulgated in 1969, Good Shepherd Sunday had been moved to the 4th Sunday of Easter, with the accounts of Our Lord’s appearances to the disciples at Emmaus (Years A and B) and at the Sea of Tiberius (Year C) read on the 3rd Sunday of Easter. This is very similar to what had been suggested in Coetus XI’s alternative proposition. What was the reason given for this change?
“Good Shepherd” Sunday. In the [1967] Ordo as printed, on the 2nd Sunday after Easter is read the Gospel of “the Good Shepherd”, as currently in the Missale Romanum. Many exegetical experts and pastors have noted several disadvantages with this Gospel being read on the 2nd Sunday [after Easter]. Indeed, in this way, the narratives of the apparitions of the risen Christ are interrupted, and the last of them would be read on the 3rd Sunday after Easter, which is too far away from the day of Easter.
It would be better if the order of the Gospels for this period were that, on the 1st and 2nd Sundays after Easter, the narratives of the apparitions are read, and that the Gospel of the Good Shepherd be read on the 4th Sunday [of Easter]; this would better prepare for the transition into the Gospels of the Lord’s discourse at the Last Supper, which starts from the 5th Sunday of Easter. [7]
In his mémoire of the liturgical reform, Annibale Bugnini tells us that the 1967 Ordo was “radically revised” in early 1968 on the basis of 460 responses received from the Bishops and periti who were given a copy. [8] This, it would seem, was the point at which Good Shepherd Sunday was moved - as well as the point where almost all the optional short forms of readings were introduced.

How numerous were the “many” periti who suggested this change? Without access to the “300 pages of general remarks and 6650 file cards on the various texts” that Bugnini mentions, it is impossible to say. Perhaps, after having been found languishing in a dark corner of a library somewhere, these documents will come to light. But, on this occasion, it would seem that the Consilium is not entirely to blame for this particular disconnect between the usus antiquior and usus recentior.


[1] Coetus XI were the group of the Consilium ad exsequendam that had responsibility for the reform of the lectionary. I would like to thank Rev Fr Luke Melcher, Director of Textual Resources at ICEL, for helpfully providing access to the relevant schemata of the Consilium and thereby making this article possible.

[2] Schema 165 (De Missali, 21), 4th May 1966, p. 29:
95. 1° Apparitiones Christi resuscitati principem locum obtinere debent. Nunc die paschatis, in sex diebus hebdomadae paschalis, et dominica in albis narrantur. Sex evangelia hebdomadea paschalis, locum traditionalem semper servabunt. Nihilominus assignari etiam possent dominicae paschatis (Mc., Lc., Ioan.) et IIae dominicae (aliae 3 pericopae Ioannis). Tunc pericopa de bono pastore ad dominicam IIIam transfertur.
[3] Schema 168 (De Missali, 22), 16th May 1966, p. 11:
Ad n. 95: Admittitur ab omnibus. Attamen: plures petunt ut in Dominica Paschatis quotannis idem evangelium Marci legatur. Hoc suadet etiam ratio oecumenica. D.Martimort mallet ut Actus etiam quotannis legantur. D.Jounel proponit ut in primo et secundo anno Actus legantur uti prima lectio, et tertio anno legatur Apocalypsis uti prima lectio et Actus uti secunda lectio. Quidam etiam petunt ut Bonus Pastor remaneat in suo loco traditionali. Coetus XI de his adnotationibus rationem habebit has quaestiones iterum considerando.
[4] Schema 176 (De Missali, 25), 25th July 1966, p. 23:
Apparitiones Christi resuscitati principem locum obtinere debent. Nunc leguntur in die Paschatis, in sex diebus hebdomadae paschalis et in dominica in albis. Duplex possibilitas hic dari videtur.
Prior propositio est ut sex evangelia hebdomadae paschalis locum traditionalem servent.
Altera propositio est ut eadem evangelia legantur dominica Paschatis (Mc., Lc., Io.) et prima dominica post Pascha, sive secunda paschatis (aliae tres pericopae Ioannis). Tunc pericopa de bono pastore deberet transferri ex Dominica secunda post pascha ed dominicam tertiam, seu dominicam quartam paschae...
Circa hanc duplicem propositionem opiniones in Coetu et inter Relatores diversae fuerunt. Altera propositio habet commodum quod diversae apparitiones die dominica legantur et ita populo innotescat, quod hodie non fit; habet incommodum quod hoc modo in Dominica Resurrectionis non semper eadem pericopa legeretur et quod evangelium de bono pastore, et ita dominica de bono pastore, deberet transferri post unam hebdomadam, quod pluribus non placet.
[5] Schema 198 (De Missali, 31), 17th October 1966, p. 4:
a) D. Martimort exponit tres difficultates de Propositione altera: sunt tres lectiones evangelii in Dominica Resurrectionis, deinde sunt tres lectiones evangelii in Dominica II Paschae, denique Dominica de Bono Pastore transfertur ad Dominicam IV Paschae.
Quaesitum 8: Placetne vobis propositio altera?
Non placet omnibus, uno excepto.
Ergo prior propositio recipitur.
Quaesitum 9: Placetne vobis structurae generalis lectionum pro Dominicis Temporis Paschalis, salvis [correctionibus quoad particularia ulterius postea forte faciendis]?
Placet omnibus, uno excepto.
[6] Schema 233 (De Missali, 39), cover letter dated 31st July 1967. As of the date of this post, a tabulation of this draft lectionary will be appearing on NLM very soon.

[7] Schema 286 (De Missali, 49), 6th April 1968, p. 6:
Dominica “de Bono Pastore”. In Ordine typis impresso, sicut in MR, secunda Dominica post Pascha legebatur evangelium “De bono Pastore”. Multi periti exegetae et pastores notant plura incommoda si hoc evangelium legitur hac Dominica secunda. Hoc modo nempe, narrationes manifestationem Christi suscitati interrumpuntur et ultima ex eis legitur tertia Dominica post Pascha, quae nimis distat a die Paschatis.
Melior ordinatio evangeliorum in hac periodo obtinetur si in prima et secunda Dominica quae sequuntur Pascha leguntur narrationes apparitionum; si evangelium de bono Pastore legitur Dominica IV, quod optime etiam praeparat transitum ad locutionem evangeliorum sermonis Domini post cenam, quae incipit inde a Dominica V Pasche.
[8] A. Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990), pp. 419-420.

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