We get many questions about how the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) works and why there are different readings for various Sundays. Here you will find a printable Revised Common Lectionary, and an online RCL calendar here.
Revised Common Lectionary in the Episcopal Church
A Lectionary is a table of scripture readings that are appointed for worship. The practice of having specific texts for a specific day began as early as the fourth century and continues to our present day. Over the year there have been different versions of lectionaries (see below for history) and today we use the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for the Episcopal Church. Each Sunday, there are readings from the Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament, and the Gospels.
The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) is based on a three-year cycle of Sunday Eucharistic readings with Year A focusing on the Gospel of Matthew, Year B focusing on Mark, and Year C focusing on Luke. The Gospel of John is interspersed through all three years of the lectionary. The Sunday lectionary readings do not cover the whole Bible, but are chosen to highlight the ministry of Jesus Christ and the story of God’s people.
There are always questions as to why we have different options for readings on a given Sunday, especially during the Season after Pentecost or Ordinary Time. The RCL has two different tracks of reading.
- One track provides for a semi-continuous reading of the Old Testament narratives, which gives you the opportunity to hear some of the great Old Testament stories as well as capture some of the story in a different way. It also has the inclusion of women and their role in salvation history, giving us texts that have not been heard on Sunday before. [Genesis through Judges in year A; the Davidic Covenant and Wisdom literature in Year B; the prophets – Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel and Habbakuk – in Year C.]
- The other track provides for thematic harmony with the Gospel of the day, in which readings from the Old Testament and New Testament are chosen in relation to the Gospel.
You can find further information about these two patterns and how to use them in your place of worship on page 888 of the Book of Common Prayer.
A Brief History of the Lectionary in the Episcopal Church
The lectionary originally contained in The Book of Common Prayer 1979, was based on the lectionary developed by the Roman Catholic Church after Vatican II, which gave us the three-year cycle of Sunday readings.
In 1983, the Common Lectionary, which was an ecumenical project American and Canadian denominations, was published. It developed out of desire for unity and a common experience of scripture. After trial use, the Revised Common Lectionary was published in 1992, after taking into account constructive criticism and feedback.
In 1994, the General Convention voted, “That the readings and psalms of The Revised Common Lectionary be authorized by this 71st General Convention for trial use for study and evaluation during the triennium, beginning with the First Sunday of Advent 1994, as authorized by the Ordinary.”
In the year 2000, the General Convention voted to continue the trial use of The Revised Common Lectionary, with changes in the readings and rubrics, which added, changed, or gave alternatives to the lectionary readings.
In 2003, the 74th General Convention voted to, “authorized the permissive use of The Revised Common Lectionary under the direction of the Bishop or Ecclesiastical authority of the Diocese.
The 75th General Convention, in 2006, finally voted that The Revised Common Lectionary, “shall be the Lectionary of this Church, amending the Lectionary on pp. 889-921 of The Book of Common Prayer, effective the First Sunday of Advent, 2007; with the provision for continued use of the previous Lectionary for purposes of orderly transition, with the permission of the Ecclesiastical Authority, until the First Sunday in Advent 2010.