Wednesday, January 06, 2016

The Embarassment of the Revised Common Lectionary

I have complained before about the peculiar way the Revised Common Lectionary omits parts of readings, and particularly so in the psalter. So tonight, on the feast of the Epiphany, we have yet another peculiar psalm passage. Both the BCP and RCL appoint some or all of Psalm 72 for this feast, regardless of the year. The BCP gives the option of using all nineteen verses or allows skipping from verse 2 to verse 10. I would guess that it is this latter verse which was felt germane to the feast: The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute,* and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts. And given the length of the psalm it's not surprising that the BCP offers a "cut to the chase" option.

The RCL, however, gives only one option, which is to omit the last five verses along with verses 9 and 10. It is the latter omission which is the more striking because it's decidedly peculiar to skip over just two verses. And here they are:

8 He shall rule from sea to sea, * and from the River to the ends of the earth. 9 His foes shall bow down before him, * and his enemies lick the dust.
What could possibly be wrong with this? Well, I have to think that it is verse 9 which offends someone's tender sensibilities. But when the Great Litany rolls around and we are beseeching God that we "may finally beat down Satan under our feet," I really can't see the problem with a great deal of grovelling on the part of Christ's enemies, or rather, The Enemy. But apparently someone saw enough of an issue that we were made to skip a pair of verses, so that once again reading the text straight out of the BCP is made difficult, to no particularly good end.

Some liturgist I once read said that part of the purpose of cycling through the psalms was to put the words of scriptural prayer and praise in our mouths whether we wanted them there or not. It would appear that this principle was foreign to the compilers of the RCL readings.

3 comments:

underground pewster said...

The RCL omissions have been a pet peeve of mine ever I started taking the Bible seriously. How scripture is passed along to the people in the pews by the Church should concern us all. I recall the year I was using the daily lectionary pages every day for a year, and I noticed the missing verses in Romans (1:26-32) were the ones referring to homosexuality. ( I posted something about this in 2010 http://lowly.blogspot.com/2010/06/theres-something-wrong-with-our-bloody.html)
They were omitted from the 1928 Daily Office lectionary as well. They are included within 1662. Others (in the Roman Catholic Church have made note of these omissions as well.
It would appear that pewsitters must take responsibility for "Minding the Gap" as we who travel in the underground have learned.

Fr. Aaron Orear said...

Yet another reason I use the optional 30-day schedule. It may not be thematically linked to feasts, but I sure as heck pray every verse of every psalm. My only issue is what to do on the 31st.

C. Wingate said...

Elsewhere it was pointed out that one of the Matthean eucharistic readings in the season skips over the massacre of the innocents, and that this excision dates back at least to 1928. My guess is that this rested on the wishful thinking that Holy Innocents was going to be observed and that therefore the passage would be picked up then. Of course that isn't what happens in 99 out of 100 ECUSA parishes. If I were the rector I would routinely have the reading extended to include the excision.