Backgrounder: For those who don’t know, the Extraordinary Form (EF) Mass (Traditional Latin Mass) has basically the same readings each year; the Ordinary Form (OF) Mass (Novus Ordo) is on a 3-year cycle. Therefore, except for some Solemnities and Feasts, different texts are often read on the same weekend, in comparing the EF and the OF readings. Sometimes even the name of the Sunday is different; e.g. the Sunday after Easter is named Second Sunday of Easter (or Sunday of Divine Mercy) in the OF liturgies while the EF title is “Low Sunday.” April 10 this year was the “Third Sunday of Easter” in the OF, while it was the “Second Sunday after Easter” in the EF. (Counting of the Sundays begins ON Easter for the OF and begins after Easter in the EF. This backgrounder isn’t absolutely essential for understanding the irony I wish to point out below, but I hope it creates some value for those who express some of the same confusion I had a few years ago, and whom I may have further confused as I tried to explain!)
For the sake of continuity: Since I rarely have the opportunity to attend EF Masses during the week (and I try to attend the Latin Mass on Sundays) I usually spend some time on the readings for Sunday OF Masses, so I have a sense of continuity during the week, for novus ordo Masses as well as for the Office. I noticed, and will just make the personal observation, without a scientific review and counting of verses, that the Epistle and Gospel texts heard at Mass in the EF (Traditional Latin Mass) contain mostly continuous text, without deleting verses. However, the Readings at Mass in the OF (Novus Ordo) frequently skip verses. Those excisions (mostly in the OF) are of course noted by verse numbers missing and, if one wants to do so, it is an easy work to consult the NAB text (on line at the USCCB) and find out what has been omitted. Perhaps it is for the sake of shorter readings? Perhaps it is done to concentrate on only one subject or one aspect of a subject? Perhaps there is some other reason which doesn’t come quickly to mind (like reading about fornicators when there are many children at Mass)?
This Weekend: Tomorrow, May 8th, has three different sets of readings. The EF will be “The Sunday after the Ascension”, as it has been for centuries. But for the OF, it will depend in which diocese you find yourself on that day. Most dioceses in the U.S. have transferred Ascension Thursday to Sunday. I am personally delighted that none of Bishop Clark, Bishop Cunningham when he was Apostolic Administrator, or Bishop Matano made that change. [Sunday Edit: In discussions today with several friends, they commented that whether or not to move Ascension Thursday to Sunday is a “regional decision.” I know I’ve heard previously that it is diocese by diocese. If you have information on this, please comment!] We still celebrate Ascension Thursday on THURSDAY, and have 9 full days for the Novena to the Holy Spirit, tracking those same nine days in the Book of Acts! In a recent bible study I was asked WHY a diocese (or why so many dioceses) would do such a thing. I didn’t have a good reason except to compare it to legalizing marijuana — before legalization it is a crime to use, afterward not so. Before moving the Solemnity it was a serious sin to miss Mass on that day (and on other Holy Days of Obligation.) After moving it, one gets a two-fer by going to Mass on Sunday, with no sin by skipping Mass on Thursday. Sorry, it is a poor analogy, I guess, but that is what I said. (As an aside, it appears that bulletins are being printed with the wrong readings, perhaps because the template is following the common practice of transplanting Thursday to Sunday?) If tomorrow is not being celebrated as The Ascension, it will be the readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, which has the reading from Revelation mentioned below.
So — the irony! The second reading tomorrow in the OF is from Revelation 22: 12-14, 16-17, and 20. Immediately I was curious why in such a relatively short reading, three verses would be dropped. Ironically, here are verses 18 and 19, deliberately dropped from the reading:
22:18 I warn everyone who hears the prophetic words in this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book,
22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words in this prophetic book, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city described in this book.
Oh, my … I am finding it very difficult to explain that excision … but I certainly think it is an ironic choice.
And verse 15 that is also omitted? Here it is:
22: 15 Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the unchaste, the murderers, the idol-worshipers, and all who love and practice deceit. The RSV translates 22:15 as: “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and every one who loves and practices falsehood.” The word in Greek is ‘pornos’. and its definition is:
- a man who prostitutes his body to another’s lust for hire
- a male prostitute
- a man who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse, a fornicator
So, what is the sensitivity to using verse 15? Is it to “unchaste” or its wider definitions? or is it about not opening the can of worms about dogs going or not going to heaven on a tranquil Sunday morning? I’m sure some translator for the Lectionary has made an argument for dropping all 3 verses. I don’t know what it is, but I probably wouldn’t like the argument anyway.