Thursday, March 04, 2021

A Look at the English Standard Version (Catholic Edition) Lectionary for the Ordinary Form

Readers of NLM may be aware that last year, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) promulgated a new translation of the lectionary for the Ordinary Form, using the English Standard Version: Catholic Edition (ESV-CE) except for the Psalms, which are from the Abbey Psalms and Canticles (APC).
The ESV was first published in 2001, and is fundamentally a revision of the Revised Standard Version (1971). It describes itself as an “essentially literal” translation, and “seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and exact force of the original”. [1] The translation was carried out by a group of more than one hundred Evangelical Protestant scholars and advisors, and has undergone a number of small revisions over the last two decades (2007, 2011, 2016).
In 2017, after a small group of Catholic scholars in India had been commissioned by the CBCI to examine the ESV and make any necessary changes to the text to ensure fidelity to the teaching of the Church, the ESV-CE was approved by the Indian Bishops as the first step towards the new OF lectionary translation. The ESV-CE Bible was published in India in 2018, and in the United States in late 2019 by The Augustine Institute; in the United Kingdom, it is scheduled for publication later this year. The Indian ESV-CE lectionary text was confirmed by the CDWDS in December 2019, and came into force in India on 5th April 2020 (Palm Sunday).
Following the hard work of the CBCI, the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland (BCS) voted last July to also adopt the ESV-CE (with APC) for a new translation of the OF lectionary, replacing the Jerusalem Bible (with the Grail Psalter). And just last month, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) announced that they had decided to do the same. At the time of writing, the Irish, Australian, and New Zealand Bishops’ Conferences have yet to announce any replacement, but it looks as though that the ESV-CE is likely to be the de facto English-language Catholic Bible version outside of North America. [2]
So, as a result, I thought that NLM readers would appreciate a quick look at the Indian ESV-CE lectionary itself - especially as there seems very little in the way of information online about these volumes at the moment other than that they exist! I have been fortunate enough to acquire a copy, so here are some pictures, along with my observations, both positive and negative.
The CBCI decided on a three-volume layout:
  1. Sundays and Solemnities (xxxiv + 966 pp) - this contains Years A, B and C of the Sunday cycle of readings, plus Solemnities.
  2. Weekdays (xxviii + 1106 pp) - this contains Years I and II of the weekday cycle of readings.
  3. Proper of Saints, Commons, Ritual Masses, Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, Votive Masses, Masses for the Dead (xxx + 1152 pp) - basically, everything else!
This layout, like any other, has a number of things to recommend it, but also contains compromises. First, it means that the cost for parishes, currently ₹7,500 for all three volumes (about $103/£73), is lower than it would be for other possible publishing arrangements. There is a certain logic to having the Sunday readings in one volume and the weekday readings in another. However, in the medium-term this may come at the cost of longevity: for example, the Sundays and Solemnities volume is going to get three times as much use compared to if each year of the Sunday cycle were its own individual volume. Similarly, the fact that the Funeral Mass readings are at the back of Volume 3 is perhaps not ideal for longevity, though the quality of the binding is fair. (Please bear in mind that my copies have travelled halfway across the world!)
The BCS and CBCEW, in consultation with publishers, [3] may decide on other layouts, such as having three volumes for each year of the Sunday cycle, or separate volumes for Nuptial Masses, Funeral Masses, etc.
Volumes 1 and 2 have two ribbons, with Volume 3 having three ribbons. This is appreciated, but the third volume really could have done with just one more ribbon; I will explain why below.
Use is made of the reference numbers of the 1981 Ordo lectionum Missae, editio typica altera (OLM), with the 2015 additiones, which is good. The celebrations proper to India have also been added in without disturbing these reference numbers. However, the lack of small headings at the top of each page does make sections more difficult to find than they could have been otherwise - this is not really a problem in Volumes 1 or 2, but is much more so in Volume 3 due to the variety of material contained in that volume.
Sense lines have been used - some, like myself, may have preferred otherwise, and this does come at the cost of wasted space on the page and thus thicker, larger books than strictly necessary, but it should be noted that the General Introduction to the Lectionary (GIL) does recommend using sense lines (see no. 115). The font, in my opinion, is clear, but for older readers it may be a little on the small side. Page bleed is unfortunately quite noticeable, though as this is not a book designed to be read for hours at a time, the compromise here is understandable (slightly thinner paper equals more manageable books in terms of thickness). Generally, the layout of the readings is sensible - lections are usually only broken over multiple pages when their length means that they must be, meaning fewer page turns for readers.

Notably, the traditional incipits In diebus illis and In illo tempore, which are contained in the OLM but that the GIL allows to be omitted (see no. 124), are preserved in the Indian ESV-CE lectionary text. Interestingly, the incipit Fratres has been rendered as “Brethren” rather than “Brothers” or “Brothers and sisters”. [4] Of course, the BCS and CBCEW could make different decisions about this, but personally I am quite happy with the CBCI’s decisions in this regard.

Weekdays are arranged such that the first reading and psalm of Year I is given, then the first reading and psalm for Year II, followed by the Gospel acclamation and Gospel reading (which is the same in both years)
To save space, the suggested readings in the Proper of Saints refer to the relevant page(s) in the Commons, with readings that are not in the Commons printed in full. However, this does not seem to be entirely consistent: for example, the readings for St Hilary (13 January) are printed in full, even though they are suggestions from the Commons. The liturgical rank of each celebration is also absent, which is a shame as the OLM does give these.
Contrary to GIL, no. 83, unfortunately there is no indication of proper readings for obligatory and optional memorials where they exist: e.g. the Gospels for 1 May (optional memorial of St Joseph the Worker) and 15 September (obligatory memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows).
Some features of the 1981 OLM have also been carried over with no accommodation of the slight changes in the organisation of material made in the third edition of the Roman Missal. For example, the Masses for Various Needs and Occasions are divided into four sections (following OLM and the second edition of the Missal), whereas the third edition of the Missal consolidated this into three divisions (For Holy Church; For Civil Needs; For Various Occasions) and moved some Masses into different sections. This makes these parts of the lectionary more arduous to use than could have been the case. More seriously, the optional memorial of St Jane Frances de Chantal is still erroneously assigned to 12th December, when it was moved in 2001 to 12th August as a result of Pope John Paul II’s addition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the General Roman Calendar.
The way in which the readings are structured for the Commons, Ritual Masses, Votive Masses, Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, and Funeral Masses, follows the OLM: i.e. all the options for the first reading from the OT are given as a group, then the first readings from the NT in Eastertide, then the responsorial psalms, then the second readings, then the Gospel acclamations and finally the Gospel readings. This facilitates the use of the choices that the OLM purposefully gives for these Masses (see GIL, nos. 83-88) in a way that the current Jerusalem Bible lectionary in England and Wales, for example, does not. [5] However, to make full use of these options, the third volume really needed four ribbons rather than three - one to mark the first reading, one for the responsorial psalm, one for the Gospel acclamation, and one for the Gospel.
The occasional typo has snuck in, though this is understandable for a project as detailed as this, and hopefully they can be corrected in subsequent printings. The “Octave of Epiphany” has apparently made a return in the Ordinary Form (volume 2, p. 91)!
An index of readings similar to that in the OLM is contained at the end of each volume.
It is worth noting that the ESV-CE lectionary text and the ESV-CE Bible text are different at some points: “Greetings, O highly favoured one” (Luke 1:28) in the Bible text becomes “Hail, full of grace” in the lectionary text, and “overseers” in 1 Timothy 3 becomes “bishops”.
Overall, the CBCI are to be congratulated on their hard work in the preparation of the ESV-CE Bible and lectionary, a worthy and dignified contribution to English-language celebrations of the Ordinary Form that is being adopted by other bishops’ conferences, and will hopefully endure for at least as long as the translations it is replacing.

[1] See the Preface to the ESV, where its translation philosophy is described in more detail.&
[2] Notwithstanding efforts in somequarters to promote the adoption of the Revised New Jerusalem Bible (RNJB). The main reason usually given is its use of “gender-inclusive language”, as opposed to the ESV’s perceived “lack” of it. I am not going to cover this in any detail here, but it should be noted that the ESV does translate inclusively where the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts allow; the Preface gives more information about the choices of the translators in this regard.
[3] For England and Wales, the Catholic Truth Society have been announced as the publishers of the new translation of the lectionary.
[4] This does create the occasional discrepancy where the incipit is “Brethren”, but later in the reading the word “brothers” is used. If the CBCEW and/or BCS wish to follow the CBCI here, I think it would be worth trying to eliminate these few inconsistencies.
[5] In the current printing of the OF lectionary in use in England and Wales, Old Testament readings are paired with responsorial psalms, and Gospel acclamations with Gospel readings. On balance, this makes the Commons etc. easier to use, but at the expense of the flexibility and choice designed into the OLM.

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