The Christian Year

Daily Eucharistic Lectionary: an introduction

The Daily Eucharistic Lectionary

Introduction (from the volume Common Worship: Daily Echaristic Lectionary)

The readings in this book are taken from the Daily Eucharistic Lectionary, authorized by the General Synod of the Church of England in 2005, which is a slight revision of the lectionary published in The Alternative Service Book 1980. That lectionary was, in turn, derived from the 1969 Ordo Lectionum Missae of the Roman Catholic Church, with the intention that the same readings be read on the same days in both Churches. The adoption in 1997 by the Church of England of a Sunday lectionary based on the Revised Common Lectionary, which itself derives from the Roman Sunday lectionary, has meant that this weekday lectionary now fits more conveniently with the Church of England’s own calendar and Sunday lectionary.

This introduction gives an overview of the principles behind the selection of readings in the weekday lectionary and any decisions which the minister may have to make in using it.

About the Daily Eucharistic Lectionary

The readings of the Daily Eucharistic Lectionary complement those of the Sunday lectionary, enabling a larger amount of the Bible to be read over the course of two years. Almost all weekdays are provided with two readings: first, a reading from the Old Testament or from the New Testament other than the Gospels; and, secondly, a reading from one of the Gospels. Christmas Eve and the days of Holy Week are provided with both an Old Testament and a New Testament reading in addition to a reading from the Gospels. The first reading is, in each case, followed by a psalm or portion of a psalm which serves as a response to the reading.

In Advent and Christmas and during the first part of Epiphany (until the Baptism of Christ) and again during Lent and Eastertide the selection of readings and psalms is the same every year. In the rest of the Epiphany season (from the Baptism of Christ until the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, or Candlemas) and in the remainder of the year (between the Presentation and Lent, and between Pentecost and Advent; the periods called ‘Ordinary Time’) the selection of first readings and psalms is spread over a two-year cycle. The readings for Year 1 are used in calendar years with an odd number, and the readings for Year 2 in calendar years with an even number. The Gospel readings are the same in each year.

The Selection of Readings


At the start of Advent, up to 16 December, readings are provided for each weekday by name. In the first two weeks the first reading is from Isaiah, read in sequence, and the psalm and the Gospel are chosen to relate to that reading. From Thursday in the second week the Gospel reading focuses on John the Baptist, and the first reading is chosen from the Old Testament to relate to that.

From 17 December until Christmas Eve, readings are assigned to each specific date in the calendar, and, reflecting the approach of Christmas, focus on the events leading up to the birth of Christ, as told in Matthew and Luke, together with various Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament.

Christmas and Epiphany (until the Baptism of Christ)

The weekday lectionary resumes on 29 December, after Christmas Day and the festivals that follow it. The first reading is taken from 1 John (the opening chapter of which is read on 27 December, the Feast of St John) and this continues until the festival of the Baptism of Christ, on the Sunday after the Epiphany. The Gospel readings relate the childhood of Jesus (from Luke), the first appearance of Jesus (from John 1) and then his first manifestations in the four Gospels.


In the early part of Lent, up to the Fourth Sunday, various Lenten themes are covered, the readings for each day being chosen to complement one another. From the fourth week of Lent there is a semi-continuous reading of John’s Gospel, chapters 4 to 11.

In each of the third, fourth and fifth weeks of Lent there is an alternative set of readings that may be used if desired. These sets are particularly appropriate in Years B and C of the Sunday lectionary scheme, because they provide an opportunity to hear each year the Gospel passages that are read on the Sundays of those weeks in Year A. On the Fourth Sunday in any year this Sunday Gospel passage may be displaced by the readings for Mothering Sunday, so that this alternative set is appropriate in all three years in the fourth week of Lent. The passages tell the stories of the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus.


In Eastertide, the first reading is a semi-continuous series from the Acts of the Apostles. The Gospel readings in the first week of Easter relate the resurrection appearances. In the rest of the Easter season, the Gospel is a semi-continuous reading of John, complementing the passages that were read at the end of Lent.

Between the Baptism of Christ and Lent, and between Pentecost and Advent

Between the feast of the Presentation of Christ and the start of Lent, and again between Pentecost and the start of Advent, is Ordinary Time. During these periods, and also for the period of Epiphany between the Baptism of Christ and the Presentation, the lectionary provides a two-year cycle of first readings and psalms, together with a repeated yearly cycle of Gospel readings. Mark 1–12 is read in weeks 1 to 9. Then the passages from Matthew not in Mark are read in weeks 10 to 21, and the passages from Luke not in Mark in weeks 22 to 34.

The first reading contains, over the course of two years, a substantial selection from both the Old Testament and the New Testament. In Year 1, twenty weeks are provided with readings from the Old Testament, and fourteen with readings from the New Testament. In Year 2, the figures are eighteen weeks and sixteen weeks, respectively. The Old Testament passages give a selection from nearly every book, omitting only 1 Chronicles, Esther (a passage of which is read in Lent), the Song of Songs, Obadiah and Zephaniah (some of which is read in Advent). These readings provide an overview of the history of salvation. The New Testament readings are from the letters of Paul and the other apostles, and a large selection of the letters is read over the course of two years. Finally, the book of Revelation is read in the last two weeks of Year 2.

The tables on pages 11–13 show the distribution of readings through the year: first during the period Advent to the Baptism of Christ, and during Lent and Easter; and then for the two years covering the Baptism of Christ until Lent, and Pentecost until Advent.

The Psalms

A psalm is provided for each day, arranged for responsorial use. Occasionally a canticle from elsewhere in the Old Testament or from the New Testament is provided, though in these cases a psalm is usually printed as an alternative. The psalm (or canticle) is intended as a meditative response to the first reading and is selected because of its relationship to that reading. The response is often a verse from the psalm, or a simpler form of a verse, or, on a few occasions, a verse from the first reading or elsewhere. This response is intended to encourage the active participation of the people in the Liturgy of the Word: it should be sung by all if possible, but may otherwise be spoken by the people.

Frequently only a portion of a psalm is set for each day, rather than the whole psalm. The choice of verses often provides a more contiguous portion of psalmody than is specified in the Roman lectionary. This is explained below in the section on differences from the Roman lectionary.

The Apocrypha

The lectionary contains some readings from the Apocrypha. In the seasons, there are occasional passages from Ecclesiasticus, Esther, the Song of the Three, and Susanna, whilst in Year 1 of Ordinary Time there are sequences from Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, Baruch, Wisdom, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. In almost all cases, alternative canonical readings are provided.

Differences in this Lectionary

This lectionary derives, as has been said, from the Roman Catholic Church’s Ordo Lectionum Missae (the Order of Readings for Mass). It was first adapted for the Church of England in The Alternative Service Book 1980, and was further revised in 2000 and 2005. The intention of the adaptations is that the same readings should be read on the same days as in the Roman Catholic Church, despite any differences in the calendars of the two Churches. However, there are some alterations compared with the Roman lectionary and these are listed on the next page.

Holy Days

When a Principal Feast or Holy Day, or a Festival, falls on a weekday then the readings and other material appropriate to that day replace those from the Daily Eucharistic Lectionary. The minister may be selective in the Lesser Festivals that are observed, and may keep some or all as commemorations. Where a Lesser Festival is observed as such, the appropriate readings and psalm may supersede those in the Daily Eucharistic Lectionary, but this is not required. The displaced readings may be added to those of the preceding or the following day at the minister’s discretion to maintain continuity.

Companion Volumes

Readings for saints’ days and other commemorations, according to the calendars of the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church in Wales, may be found in the companion volume, Exciting Holiness, which also includes brief biographical or historical notes on each commemoration. Readings for Sundays, and for Principal Feasts, other Principal Holy Days and Festivals may be found in the series entitled The Word of the Lord which comprises a volume for each of the years A, B and C, together with a fourth volume for special occasions. A further volume contains all the Gospel readings for use at the Principal Service and is called The Gospel of the Lord.

Using This Book

Lectionary Years

In this volume the two years of the lectionary are printed together. The readings labelled Year 1 are used in years with an odd number, and readings labelled Year 2 in years with an even number. When the same readings are used in both years, they are labelled Year 1 and Year 2. This almost always applies to the Gospel readings as these do not follow a two-year cycle. In a very small number of cases, different readings are provided depending on the three-year Sunday lectionary: these are labelled Year A, Year B and Year C. Year A begins on the First Sunday of Advent in years whose number is exactly divisible by three; the table on pages 14–15 indicates the lectionary year in the three-year scheme which applies from January until Advent, and the year which starts each Advent.

Lectionary Weeks

The readings for the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany (up to the Baptism of Christ), Lent and Easter are printed first; these readings are the same in each year of the cycle, except for a few occasions where there are differences depending on the Sunday lectionary year.

In the first part of Advent the readings depend on the liturgical calendar. For the date of the First Sunday of Advent, which begins this season, see the table on pages 14–15. From 17 December until the Baptism of Christ the readings are fixed to specific dates. In Lent and Eastertide the readings again depend on the liturgical calendar. The table on pages 14–15 indicates the dates of Ash Wednesday and Pentecost, between which these seasons fall.

After these readings, those for the rest of the year are printed. In this period (from the Baptism of Christ until the Presentation of Christ; and in Ordinary Time) the readings are fixed to ranges of secular calendar dates, and these dates are indicated in the heading of each day. The weeks are numbered consecutively from 1 to 34. Weeks 1 to 3, and Monday and Tuesday in week 4, always fall before Lent, and from week 11 all dates are after Pentecost. In between, some weeks may in any given year fall either before Lent or after Pentecost, and in some years one week may be omitted altogether.

The table on pages 14–15 indicates the week with which the lectionary resumes after Pentecost in each year. The minister and reader will need to pay careful attention to the headings against each day to determine the correct reading.

The Sunday at the start of each week falls in the range of dates indicated in the table opposite. This table also shows the page on which the readings for the subsequent weekdays commence.

About the readings

The following typographic conventions should be noted.

Round brackets () which are included in the Biblical texts are part of the Bible translation. The text enclosed in the brackets should always be read.

Square brackets [] indicate that the text within them may be omitted, as permitted by the lectionary and noted in the passage citation after the reading. Square brackets are also used in the psalm responses (see below).

An arrow > at the foot of a page indicates that the reading or psalm continues over the page.

Where the lectionary provides alternative readings or psalms and canticles this is indicated by the rubrics Either and or before the alternatives.

Psalm Responses

The response for each psalm is normally a verse or part-verse from that psalm. Sometimes that verse is then omitted from the psalm as printed, and the response is then marked R*, with an asterisk * in the text of the psalm marking the place of the omitted verse. When the omitted verse is from the start of the specified portion no asterisk marker is printed in the text of the psalm. If the psalm is used without a congregational response the reader may recite the omitted verse at the appropriate point.

Before the psalm the reader may introduce the response with words such as ‘The response to the psalm is:’ followed by the response, and the congregation may then repeat it back. This immediate repetition helps to memorize the words.

Many of the responses are provided in short and long versions: the portion in square brackets may be omitted if the shorter version is preferred, for example when the response is not printed but must be remembered.

Responses marked cf indicate adapted or compressed text; otherwise the response follows the text of the Common Worship psalter or The New Revised Standard Version without alteration. The responses are not themselves part of the authorized lectionary, and other responses may be used if desired.

Gospel Acclamations

Acclamations for the Gospel reading can be found on pages 813–818. These are drawn from the provision in the main Common Worship volume, and the Times and Seasons volume. Other acclamations may be used, and if more variety is desired, then it may often be appropriate to adapt the psalm response.


For much of the year, the lectionary is tied to dates in the secular calendar, either to a specific date or to a range of dates. These dates are indicated in the heading for each day. Where a range of dates is printed, these are to be interpreted inclusively.


The Common Worship Weekday Lectionary, of which the Daily Eucharistic Lectionary forms part, is authorized pursuant to Canon B2 of the Canons of the Church of England for use until further resolution of the General Synod.

Authorization extends to the references to the readings and psalms or canticles, which may be read from any version whose use is not prohibited. In this edition the text of The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible is used for the readings, and the text of the Common Worship psalter for the psalms. Canticles follow the text printed in Common Worship: Daily Prayer where possible. Other canticles are adapted from a number of Bible translations, chiefly The New Revised Standard Version.