An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Lectio Continua

The liturgical reading of selections of scripture by starting at the beginning of a particular book and working through consecutive readings to the end. This contrasts with selective readings (“propers”) which are chosen for each particular occasion. At the time of the early church, readings in the services of the Jewish synagogue were chosen at the reader's discretion, from a fixed lectionary, or from a sequence of “in course” readings (lectio continua). Christian lectionaries developed with fixed patterns of readings. Marion Hatchett notes in his Commentary on the American Prayer Book that there was a system for reading the entire Bible at Matins in the church, but this system did not continue in use past the ninth century. The orderly sequence of readings was disrupted in the middle ages by the increased number of saints' days and their octaves, and the readings of the lives of the saints. The Preface of the 1549 Prayer Book states that “here is drawn out a Kalendar. . . wherein (so much as may be) the reading of Holy Scripture is so set forth, that all things shall be done in order, without breaking one piece thereof from another” (BCP, p. 866). The entire NT with the exception of Revelation was read three times in a year by following the Daily Office lectionary of the 1549 Prayer Book. The Daily Office lectionary of the 1979 BCP is arranged so that the NT is read twice and the OT is read once in a two-year cycle of readings (see pp. 936-995). The new eucharistic lectionary of the 1979 BCP provides for the reading of almost the entire NT and a significant part of the OT over a three-year cycle of readings (see pp. 889-921). Sequences of in course readings are frequently provided in the selections of the Daily Office lectionary and the eucharistic lectionary.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.