Chapter V: Description of the Order of Readings
92. It seems useful to provide here a brief description of the Order of
Readings, at least for the principal celebrations and the different seasons of
the liturgical year. With these in mind, readings were selected on the basis of
the rules already stated. This description is meant to assist pastors of souls
to understand the structure of the Order of Readings, so that their use of it
will become more perceptive and the Order of Readings a source of good for
a) THE SUNDAYS
93. Each Gospel reading has a distinctive theme: the Lord's coming at the end
of time (First Sunday of Advent), John the Baptist (Second and Third Sunday),
and the events that prepared immediately for the Lord's birth (Fourth Sunday).
The Old Testament readings are prophecies about the Messiah and the Messianic
age, especially from the Book of Isaiah.
The readings from an Apostle contain exhortations and proclamations, in
keeping with the different themes of Advent.
b) THE WEEKDAYS
94. There are two series of readings: one to be used from the beginning of
Advent until 16 December; the other from 17 to 24 December.
In the first part of Advent there are readings from the Book of Isaiah,
distributed in accord with the sequence of the book itself and including the
more important texts that are also read on the Sundays. For the choice of the
weekday Gospel the first reading has been taken into consideration.
On Thursday of the second week the readings from the Gospel concerning John
the Baptist begin. The first reading is either a continuation of Isaiah or a
text chosen in view of the Gospel.
In the last week before Christmas the events that immediately prepared for
the Lord's birth are presented from the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 1) and Luke
(chapter 1). The texts in the first reading, chosen in view of the Gospel
reading, are from different Old Testament books and include important Messianic
2. The Christmas Season
a) THE SOLEMNITIES, FEASTS, AND SUNDAYS
95. For the vigil and the three Masses of Christmas both the prophetic
readings and the others have been chosen from the Roman tradition.
The Gospel on the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, Feast of the Holy
Family, is about Jesus' childhood and the other readings are about the virtues
of family life.
On the Octave Day of Christmas, Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the
Mother of God, the readings are about the Virgin Mother of God and the giving of
the holy Name of Jesus.
On the second Sunday after Christmas, the readings are about the mystery of
On the Epiphany of the Lord, the Old Testament reading and the Gospel
continue the Roman tradition; the text for the reading from the Letters of the
Apostles is about the calling of the nations to salvation.
On the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the texts chosen are about this
b) THE WEEKDAYS
96. From 29 December on, there is a continuous reading of the whole of the
First Letter of John, which actually begins earlier, on 27 December, the Feast
of St. John the Evangelist, and on 28 December, the Feast of the Holy Innocents.
The Gospels relate manifestations of the Lord: events of Jesus' childhood from
the Gospel of Luke (29-30 December); passages from the first chapter of the
Gospel of John (31 December-5 January); other manifestations of the Lord from
the four Gospels (7-12 January).
a) THE SUNDAYS
97. The Gospel readings are arranged as follows:
The first and second Sundays maintain the accounts of the Temptation and
Transfiguration of the Lord, with readings, however, from all three Synoptics.
On the next three Sundays, the Gospels about the Samaritan woman, the man
born blind, and the raising of Lazarus have been restored in Year A. Because
these Gospels are of major importance in regard to Christian initiation, they
may also be read in Year B and Year C, especially in places where there are
Other texts, however, are provided for Year B and Year C: for Year B, a text
from John about Christ's coming glorification through his Cross and
Resurrection, and for Year C, a text from Luke about conversion.
On Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion the texts for the procession are
selections from the Synoptic Gospels concerning the Lord's solemn entry into
Jerusalem. For the Mass the reading is the account of the Lord's Passion.
The Old Testament readings are about the history of salvation, which is one
of the themes proper to the catechesis of Lent. The series of texts for each
Year presents the main elements of salvation history from its beginning until
the promise of the New Covenant.
The readings from the Letters of the Apostles have been selected to fit the
Gospel and the Old Testament readings and, to the extent possible, to provide a
connection between them.
b) THE WEEKDAYS
98. The readings from the Gospels and the Old Testament were selected because
they are related to each other. They treat various themes of the Lenten
catechesis that are suited to the spiritual significance of this season.
Beginning with Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent, there is a semicontinuous
reading of the Gospel of John, made up of texts that correspond more closely to
the themes proper to Lent.
Because the readings about the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, and the
raising of Lazarus are now assigned to Sundays, but only for Year A (in Year B
and Year C they are optional), provision has been made for their use on
weekdays. Thus at the beginning of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Weeks of Lent
optional Masses with these texts for the Gospel have been inserted and may be
used in place of the readings of the day on any weekday of the respective week.
In the first days of Holy Week the readings are about the mystery of Christ's
passion. For the Chrism Mass the readings bring out both Christ's Messianic
mission and its continuation in the Church by means of the sacraments.
4. The Sacred Triduum and the Easter Season
a) THE SACRED EASTER TRIDUUM
99. On Holy Thursday at the evening Mass the remembrance of the meal
preceding the Exodus casts its own special light because of the Christ's example
in washing the feet of his disciples and Paul's account of the institution of
the Christian Passover in the Eucharist.
On Good Friday the liturgical service has as its center John's narrative of
the Passion of him who was proclaimed in Isaiah as the Servant of the Lord and
who became the one High Priest by offering himself to the Father.
At the Vigil on the holy night of Easter there are seven Old Testament
readings which recall the wonderful works of God in the history of salvation.
There are two New Testament readings, the announcement of the Resurrection
according to one of the Synoptic Gospels and a reading from St. Paul on
Christian baptism as the sacrament of Christ's Resurrection.
The Gospel reading for the Mass on Easter day is from John on the finding of
the empty tomb. There is also, however, the option to use the Gospel texts from
the Easter Vigil or, when there is an evening Mass on Easter Sunday, to use the
account in Luke of the Lord's appearance to the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
The first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles, which throughout the Easter
season replaces the Old Testament reading. The reading from the Apostle Paul
concerns the living out of the paschal mystery in the Church.
b) THE SUNDAYS
100. The Gospel readings for the first three Sundays recount the appearances
of the risen Christ. The readings about the Good Shepherd are assigned to the
Fourth Sunday. On the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Sundays, there are excerpts from
the Lord's discourse and prayer at the end of the Last Supper.
The first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles, in a three-year cycle of
parallel and progressive selections: material is presented on the life of the
early Church, its witness, and its growth.
For the reading from the Apostles, the First Letter of Peter is in Year A,
the First Letter of John in Year B, the Book of Revelation in Year C. These are
the texts that seem to fit in especially well with the spirit of joyous faith
and sure hope proper to this season.
c) THE WEEKDAYS
101. As on the Sundays, the first reading is a semicontinuous reading from
the Acts of the Apostles. The Gospel readings during the Easter octave are
accounts of the Lord's appearances. After that there is a sernicontinuous
reading of the Gospel of John, but with texts that have a paschal character, in
order to complete the reading from John during Lent. This paschal reading is
made up in large part of the Lord's discourse and prayer at the end of the Last
d) THE SOLEMNITIES OF THE ASCENSION AND OF PENTECOST
102. For the first reading the Solemnity of the Ascension retains the account
of the Ascension according to the Acts of the Apostles. This text is
complemented by the second reading from the Apostle on Christ in exaltation at
the right hand of the Father. For the Gospel reading, each of the three Years
has its own text in accord with the differences in the Synoptic Gospels.
In the evening Mass celebrated on the Vigil of Pentecost four Old Testament
texts are provided; any one of them may be used, in order to bring out the many
aspects of Pentecost. The reading from the Apostles shows the actual working of
the Holy Spirit in the Church. The Gospel reading recalls the promise of the
Spirit made by Christ before his own glorification.
For the Mass on Pentecost day itself, in accord with received usage, the
account in the Acts of the Apostles of the great occurrence on Pentecost day is
taken as the first reading. The texts from the Apostle Paul bring out the effect
of the action of the Spirit in the life of the Church. The Gospel reading is a
remembrance of Jesus bestowing his Spirit on the disciples on the evening of
Easter day; other optional texts describe the action of the Spirit on the
disciples and on the Church.
5. "Ordinary Time"
a) THE ARRANGEMENT AND CHOICE OF TEXTS
103. Ordinary Time begins on the Monday after the Sunday following 6 January;
it lasts until the Tuesday before Lent inclusive. It begins again on the Monday
after Pentecost Sunday and finishes before evening prayer I of the first Sunday
The Order of Readings provides readings for thirty-four Sundays and the weeks
following them. In some years, however, there are only thirty-three weeks of
Ordinary Time. Further, some Sundays either belong to another season (the Sunday
on which the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord falls and Pentecost Sunday) or
else are impeded by a solemnity that coincides with Sunday (e.g. The Most Holy
Trinity or Christ the King).
104. For the correct arrangement in the use of the readings for Ordinary
Time, the following are to be respected.
1. The Sunday on which the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord falls
replaces the first Sunday in Ordinary Time. Therefore the readings of the First
Week of Ordinary Time begin on the Monday after the Sunday following 6 January.
When the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on Monday because the
Epiphany has been celebrated on the Sunday, the readings of the First Week begin
2. The Sunday following the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the Second
Sunday of Ordinary Time. The remaining Sundays are numbered consecutively up to
the Sunday preceding the beginning of Lent. The readings for the week in which
Ash Wednesday falls are interrupted after the Tuesday readings.
3. For the resumption of the readings of Ordinary Time after Pentecost Sunday:
-when there are thirty-four Sundays in Ordinary Time, the week to be
used is the one that immediately follows the last week used before Lent;
-when there are thirty-three Sundays in Ordinary Time, the first week that would
have been used after Pentecost is omitted, in order to reserve for the end of
the year the eschatological texts that are assigned to the last two weeks.
b) THE SUNDAY READINGS
1) The Gospel Readings
105. On the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time the Gospel continues to center on
the manifestation of the Lord, which is celebrated on the Solemnity of the
Epiphany, through the traditional passage about the wedding feast at Cana and
two other passages from the Gospel of John.
Beginning with the Third Sunday, there is a semicontinuous reading of the
Synoptic Gospels. This reading is arranged in such a way that as the Lord's life
and preaching unfold the doctrine proper to each of these Gospels is presented.
This distribution also provides a certain coordination between the meaning of
each Gospel and the progress of the liturgical year. Thus after Epiphany the
readings are on the beginning of the Lord's preaching and they fit in well with
Christ's baptism and the first events in which he manifests himself. The
liturgical year leads quite naturally to a conclusion in the eschatological
theme proper to the last Sundays, since the chapters of the Synoptics that
precede the account of the Passion treat this eschatological theme rather
After the Sixteenth Sunday in Year B, five readings are incorporated from
John chapter 6 (the discourse on the bread of life). This is the natural place
for these readings because the multiplication of the loaves from the Gospel of
John takes the place of the same account in Mark. In the semicontinuous reading
of Luke for Year C, the introduction of this Gospel has been prefixed to the
first text (that is, on the Third Sunday). This passage expresses the author's
intention very beautifully and there seemed to be no better place for it.
2) The Old Testament Readings
106. These readings have been chosen to correspond to the Gospel passages in
order to avoid an excessive diversity between the readings of different Masses
and above all to bring out the unity between the Old and the New Testament. The
connection between the readings of the same Mass is shown by a precise choice of
the headings prefixed to the individual readings.
To the degree possible, the readings were chosen in such a way that they
would be short and easy to grasp. But care has been taken to ensure that many
Old Testament texts of major significance would be read on Sundays. Such
readings are distributed not according to a logical order but on the basis of
what the Gospel reading requires. Still, the treasury of the word of God will be
opened up in such a way that nearly all the principal pages of the Old Testament
will become familiar to those taking part in the Mass on Sundays.
3) The Readings from the Apostles
107. There is a semicontinuous reading of the Letters of Paul and James (the
Letters of Peter and John being read during the Easter and Christmas seasons).
Because it is quite long and deals with such diverse issues, the First Letter
to the Corinthians has been spread over the three years of the cycle at the
beginning of Ordinary Time. It also was thought best to divide the Letter to the
Hebrews into two parts; the first part is read in Year B and the second in Year
Only readings that are short and readily grasped by the people have been
Table II at the end of this Introduction
 indicates the distribution of Letters of
the Apostles over the three-year cycle of the Sundays of Ordinary Time.
c) THE READINGS FOR SOLEMNITIES OF THE LORD DURING ORDINARY TIME
108. On the solemnities of Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi, and the Sacred
Heart, the texts chosen correspond to the principal themes of these
The readings of the Thirty-Fourth and last Sunday of Ordinary Time celebrate
Christ the universal King. He was prefigured by David and proclaimed as king
amid the humiliations of his Passion and Cross; he reigns in the Church and will
come again at the end of time.
d) THE WEEKDAY READINGS
109. The Gospels are so arranged that Mark is read first (First to Ninth
Week), then Matthew (Tenth to Twenty-First Week), then Luke (Twenty-Second to
Thirty-Fourth Week). Mark chapters 1-12 are read in their entirety, with the
exception only of the two passages of Mark chapter 6 that are read on weekdays
in other seasons. From Matthew and Luke the readings comprise all the material
not contained in Mark. All the passages that either are distinctively presented
in each Gospel or are needed for a proper understanding of its progression are
read two or three times. Jesus' eschatological discourse as contained in its
entirety in Luke is read at the end of the liturgical year.
110. The First Reading is taken in periods of several weeks at a time first
from one then from the other Testament; the number of weeks depends on the
length of the biblical books read.
Rather large sections are read from the New Testament books in order to give
the substance, as it were, of each of the Letters.
From the Old Testament there is room only for select passages that, as far as
possible, bring out the character of the individual books. The historical texts
have been chosen in such a way as to provide an overall view of the history of
salvation before the Incarnation of the Lord. But lengthy narratives could
hardly be presented; sometimes verses have been selected that make for a reading
of moderate length. In addition, the religious significance of the historical
events is sometimes brought out by means of certain texts from the wisdom books
that are placed as prologues or conclusions to a series of historical readings.
Nearly all the Old Testament books have found a place in the Order of
Readings for weekdays in the Proper of Seasons. The only omissions are the
shortest of the prophetic books (Obadiah and Zephaniah) and a poetic book (the
Song of Songs). Of those narratives of edification requiring a lengthy reading
if they are to be understood, Tobit and Ruth are included, but the others
(Esther and Judith) are omitted. Texts from these latter two books are assigned,
however, to Sundays and weekdays at other times of the year.
Table III at the end of this Introduction
 lists the way the books of the Old and
the New Testament are distributed over the weekdays in Ordinary Time in the
course of two years.
At the end of the liturgical year the readings are from the books that
correspond to the eschatological character of this period, Daniel and the Book