Early each morning at this old house, I follow the historic lectionary readings in my daily Bible reading time. The Lectionary is the series of readings from Scripture appointed centuries ago for each day of the year in a one to three year cycle. Often the Old Testament and Gospel parallel each other and the New Testament reading provides its own thread of “how does one then live as a Christ-follower.” Wikipedia gives more background and clarification on this practice of dividing Scripture up each day:
The Talmud claims that the practice of reading appointed Scriptures on given days or occasions dates back to the time of Moses and began with the annual religious festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles…The Mishnah portion of the Talmud, probably finished in the early 3rd century CE, contains a list of Torah readings for various occasions…The early Christians adopted the Jewish custom of reading extracts from the Old Testament on the Sabbath. They soon added extracts from the writings of the Apostles and Evangelists. ..Typically, a lectionary will go through the scriptures in a logical pattern, and also include selections which were chosen by the religious community for their appropriateness to particular occasions…The existence of both one-year and three-year cycles occurs in both Christianity and Judaism.
Within Christianity, the use of pre-assigned, scheduled readings from the scriptures can be traced back to the early Church, and seems to have been inherited from Judaism. The earliest documentary record of a special book of readings is [from] Bishop Venerius of Marseilles, who died in 452, though there are 3rd-century references to liturgical readers as a special role in the clergy. Not all [branches] of the Christian Church used the same lectionary, and throughout history, many varying lectionaries have been used in different parts of the Christian world.
Every Saturday, I include with my Scripture readings two art and music resources that are also related to the lectionary readings Sunday or Feast Day. One resource is a three volume set of art and poetry called “Imaging the Word.” Today, in preparation for tomorrow’s Gospel reading, where John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29-42), I was invited to view details from the Jan van Eyck “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” the central panel of The Ghent Altarpiece. What a magnificent painting and one I was privileged to see live in Belgium years ago.
I was also invited to reflect on an excerpt from Denise Levertov’s poem, “Agnus Dei”:
encompassing all things, is
has been tossed away,
reduced to a wisp of damp wool?
frightened, bored, wanting
only to sleep ‘til catastrophe
has raged, clashed, seethed and gone by without us,
to awaken in quietude without remembrance of agony,
we who in shamefaced private hope
had looked to be plucked from fire and given
a bliss we deserved for having imagined it,
is it implied that we
must protect this perversely weak
animal, whose muzzle’s nudgings
suppose there is milk to be found in us?
Must hold in our icy hearts
a shivering God?
Both the van Eyck painting and the Levertov poem excerpt have given me much to think about regarding corporate worship and the lectionary readings I will hear there. May they be a blessing to you as well!