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The Sunday Epistles after Pentecost

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Following up on a recent post about the Sunday Gospels after Pentecost, this table shows the Epistles of the Sundays after Pentecost as they are arranged in the lectionary of Murbach, the second oldest of the Roman Rite (ca. 800 AD), and how they correspond to those in the Missal of St Pius V. A more detailed explanation is given below. (Click to enlarge.)

The relationship between Murbach and the Roman Missal requires little commentary. The Murbach system has 25 Sundays after Pentecost, the Roman 24; in the former, the first Sunday after Pentecost is treated as a true octave day, a custom which continued in northern Europe well into the 16th century, whereas at Rome, it was the first of the Sundays after Pentecost, not part of the octave (what we now call a “green Sunday”.) Murbach therefore has a proper Epistle for the octave day of Pentecost at the beginning of the series, which displaces all the other readings forward by one week. In the Murbach column, each reading is marked with a red Roman numeral that shows which Sunday it is on in the Roman Missal, always one Sunday earlier. The only other discrepancy is the Epistle for the Roman 23rd Sunday, which is 3 verses longer than its counterpart in Murbach.

The relationship between Murbach and the earlier Roman tradition is more complex. Here the point of reference is not the lectionary of Wurzburg, which dates to about a century earlier, and has no system of Epistles for the period after Pentecost. There is a block of forty readings from the epistles of St Paul, many of which appear in later lectionaries in the series after Pentecost; however, none of them is assigned to any specific day, and it seems clear that they were simply read as needed on the Sundays or ferias.

Instead, the point of comparison is an epistolary incorrectly attributed to Alcuin, one of the great scholars of the Carolingian era. This survives in two manuscripts, one at the Bibliothèque Municipale de Cambrai (cod. 553), and another at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (cod. lat. 9452). Although these are both of the 9th century, they represent the Roman lectionary tradition as it stood in the reign of Pope Honorius I, who reigned two centuries earlier (625-38). The manuscript in Paris has a supplement of 65 readings, added by Helisachar, abbot of St Richier; Alcuin himself did also make some minor adjustments to the tradition represented by these two manuscripts. (A. Chupungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies; the Eucharist, pp. 177-78)

In the lectionary of Alcuin, these Sundays are counted as 4 after Pentecost, 5 after the feast of Ss Peter and Paul, 5 after that of St Lawrence, 2 “of September“”, and 6 after the feast of St Michael, a total of only 22. There is also a series of nine “daily” readings, to which the supplement in the Parisian manuscript adds 34 more. This is the tradition which Murbach systematizes into a series of 25 Sundays after Pentecost.

In the table above, therefore, the first column indicates where each reading in Murbach appears in Alcuin. Fifteen of the twenty-five epistles in Murbach are taken from the Sundays after Pentecost in Alcuin, three from the older daily series, five from the newer daily series in the supplement, and two have no correspondent, one of these being the reading for the Octave day of Pentecost. Several epistles of the oldest series attested in Alcuin have been omitted in Murbach, and others reordered; nevertheless, there is still a discernible continuity between Alcuin and the Missal of St Pius V.

Folio 77r of the so-called Lectionary of Alcuin (Bibliothèque nationale de France Département des Manuscrits. Latin 9452, cropped); the Epistle of the Octave of Pentecost, 1 Cor. 12, 2-11, which is moved by Murbach to the 11th Sunday after Pentecost.

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