Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Experimental Lectionary of the Consilium ad exsequendam (1967)

Between the later stages of the Second Vatican Council and the promulgation of the reformed Ordo lectionum Missae in 1969, various episcopal conferences were granted permission to expand the selection of readings used at weekday Masses, on an experimental basis. Three main schemes were used in this period: the German scheme, [1] the French scheme, and the Consilium scheme. The latter, prepared by Coetus XI of the Consilium, was presented to episcopal conferences that had not asked specific permission to use either of the other two schemes. The Consilium’s scheme was also the subject of “extensive deliberation”, being given to each episcopal conference, to the participants in the 1967 Synod of Bishops, and around 800 periti in various fields such as biblical studies, liturgy, catechesis and pastoral care; 460 responses were received. [2]

The table of the Consilium scheme of readings is now available for download from the following link:

Table of Readings from the Consilium’s Experimental Lectionary (Schemata 233 [De Missali 39], 1967), with the text of the introductory material (PDF)

This scheme is vital source material for studying the work of Coetus XI, and it is worth mentioning that it had eluded me for a number of years until recently. Very many thanks are due to the library staff at Blackfriars Hall (University of Oxford) for allowing me to consult their copy of the Ordo lectionum pro dominicis, feriis et festis sanctorum.

The elusive Schemata 233 of the Consilium ad exsequendam
With this table of readings, all of the primary experimental schemes of readings in use have now been made publicly available for research (see the links above and also my Lectionary Study Aids blog). Though I have yet to do any detailed comparisons of the various schemes, or to compare them with the eventual Ordo lectionum Missae, there are a couple of observations that immediately stand out about the Consilium’s scheme:
  1. It was produced at a point in the post-Vatican II liturgical reform where there was clearly some uncertainty about what the General Roman Calendar would look like in the future. For example, Lent appears to start on the 1st Sunday of Lent rather than on Ash Wednesday, [3] and though we have Sundays labelled as post-Epiphany and post-Pentecost, the ferial weekday lectionary does not make this distinction (there are 34 weeks in tempus per annum).

  2. Compared to the 1969/1981 Ordo lectionum Missae, there are very few short forms of readings, and the majority of those that do exist in the Consilium scheme would seem to conform more to no. 75 of the General Introduction to the Lectionary than those in the 1969/1981 OLM. This issue is more complex than first appears, however, and will be examined in future posts.
Other interesting observations are, no doubt, waiting to be made, and I hope to be able to share some of them at NLM in the future.


[1] The German scheme was the one also used in England & Wales between 1965-69. Closely related to this scheme is the one used in Spain and some other Spanish-speaking nations.

[2] Annibale Bugnini gives more details about the reform of the lectionary in The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990), pp. 406-425.

[3] Bugnini makes it clear that this was a feature, not a bug. Pope Paul VI had to personally intervene in order to ensure that Ash Wednesday and the three days following would be retained in the General Roman Calendar (cf. The Reform of the Liturgy, pp. 307, 310-311).

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