September 16, 2011

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Reading the Bible with the Office of Readings

John F. FinkIf anyone out there has been a long-time reader of this column, he or she will know that I frequently write about the Bible. Through the years, I’ve had series of columns about Jesus in the Gospels, biblical women, the psalms and Jesus’ parables, among other topics.

Well, I’m about to do it again. The reason I keep returning to the Bible is simple—because of its importance to the Church. It is, after all, the word of the Lord.

That is what Pope Benedict XVI called his apostolic exhortation on the Bible—“Verbum Domini”—issued in 2010 after the 2008 meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the topic, “The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church.”

In that exhortation, Pope Benedict said, “I wish once more to encourage all the people of God, pastors, consecrated persons and the laity to become increasingly familiar with the sacred Scriptures. We must never forget that all authentic and living Christian spirituality is based on the word of God proclaimed, accepted, celebrated and meditated upon in the Church” (#121).

Among the many things the pope did in that exhortation was to encourage efforts to acquaint the people of God with the Liturgy of the Hours. That is what gave me the idea for my next series of columns.

The Office of Readings is part of the Liturgy of the Hours. It consists of a hymn, three psalms or sections of psalms with appropriate antiphons, and a verse. After that come two readings, and the first of them is always an extended biblical reading.

I decided that, if the Church considers those biblical readings to be important enough to include them in its official liturgy, I should try to make them more familiar to my readers. Of course, the Church also includes biblical readings in the Mass, also part of its official liturgy, but the readings in the Office of Readings are different from those in the Mass.

As it happens, as a general rule the Office of Readings devotes a full week to readings from a particular book of the Bible. This week, for example, the 24th week in Ordinary Time, the readings are from the Book of Ezekiel. When I begin the series next week, I’ll write about the readings coming up during the following week and that happens to be St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.

As you can see, the readings move back and forth between the Old and New Testaments. Furthermore, some of the books are deemed so important that more than one week is devoted to them. That is true mainly for the Book of Isaiah, which is read throughout Advent. Four weeks are devoted to Revelation after Easter, and three weeks to Exodus during Lent.

We won’t cover the entire Bible this way. Surprisingly, there won’t be anything from Genesis. But with these readings, plus the daily Mass readings that are found each week on the next page of this newspaper, readers will be able to become familiar with a considerable part of the Bible. †

Local site Links: