Lectiones for Inspection

Lectiones for Inspection

Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Sage Parnassus.

Back in March when I wrote “Lections for Life,” I was perhaps embarking on a foolish mission. Who would write about a book he had never seen? In any event, I thought I had enough evidence to make a reasonable conjecture as to the content of the “Lectiones by Spottiswoode” assigned in the PNEU programmes from 1921 to 1933 (and perhaps before and after). And then I wistfully wrote:

I have never seen Spottiswoode’s Lectiones. Perhaps I never will.

Sometimes it seems we must resign ourselves that a door is completely closed before God in His grace opens it for us. That way we know our help is from the Lord. Just a few short weeks after typing those words, I managed to obtain a complete scan of an issue of Spottiswoode’s Lectiones. Have previously relied only on clues, I now had before my eyes, Lectiones for inspection.

The booklet I obtained was Lectiones for Juniors, the Spottiswoode resource consistently assigned for Forms II (usually ages 10-12). (Forms III and IV were assigned Lectiones for Seniors.) The first thing I noticed about the 8-page leaflet, measuring 5.5” across, was its subtitle: “No 52. September, 1918—January, 1919.” This confirmed that the Lectiones were not a static set of readings repeated annually or even triennially, but rather were freshly composed on a quarterly basis. A note at the end of the booklet explained that for one shilling, interested readers could receive a four-year subscription.

Scrolling down the first page, I noticed that this issue did not begin with September 1, but rather with September 22. Why? Because September 22 is a Sunday, and the Lectciones followed the Anglican church calendar. Each week was labeled, and readers of The Cloud of Witness would feel right at home. Using exactly the same labeling scheme, this issue of the Lectiones began with “Seventeenth week after Trinity.” This issue also included the four weeks of Advent, Christmastide, and the first two weeks after Epiphany.

After the heading for the week, I saw a line for each day of the week. Each line simply had the day of the week, the date, a range of verses from the Bible to read, and a short heading (usually a quote from the Bible). There was no commentary, and the text of the Bible passage itself was not included. So, for example, for September 22, 1918 I found simply:

S. Sept. 22—“He turned their heart to hate His people” … … Ex. i. 1-14

Like most resources based on the church calendar, the week began with Sunday. (The Cloud of Witness is the only resource I’ve seen that begins a week with the preceding Saturday. So in the Cloud, unlike the Lectiones, Advent begins with Advent Eve.)

Interestingly, the short heading for the day was generally not from the assigned reading, but rather from a related passage of Scripture. So for Exodus 1:1-14, the quote “He turned their heart to hate His people” (given without citation), is actually from Psalm 105:25. The authors of the Lectiones, then, were promoting the principle that Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture.

The quote given for Exodus 2:11-25 was “choosing rather to be evil entreated with the people of God,” the ERV rendering of Hebrews 11:25. This suggests that the authors of the Lectiones, as with Charlotte Mason, eschewed the KJV in favor of the more recent English Revised Version.

This issue of Lectiones for Juniors specified an average of 8 verses per day (mean and median; the mode was 9). The longest reading for a day was 16 verses, and the shortest reading was 4 verses.The first two months of readings were generally sequential from day-to-day, but not unbroken. So for example, the reading for September 23 jumped to Exodus 2, meaning that Exodus 1:15-22 were skipped. This approach, assigning sequential “highlights,” is identical to that used by contemporary lectionaries such as the Revised Common Lectionary. It allows the reader to progress more quickly through a biblical narrative, without covering every episode or detail.

Lectiones 52 covered Exodus chapters 1 to 17 in this fashion, from September 22 to October 26. Then beginning with the twenty-second week after Trinity, the readings shifted to the New Testament, covering Mark chapters 1 to 8 before the first week of Advent. With the New Testament readings, the shorter headings were more frequently titles rather than quotes, such as:

Th. October 31—The prayer of faith, and the reply … … St. Mark i.40-45

The first page of the Lectiones explained the verse selections for Advent and Epiphany:

From December 1 to December 24, the [readings] bear exclusively on Missionary Work.

From December 25 to January 26, they are suggested by the Collect for the week.

This idea of weekly themes will be familiar to readers of The Cloud of Witness. The verses “on Missionary Work” ranged from the Old Testament to the New, opening with such classic missionary passages as Isaiah 35, Psalm 19, and Jonah 3. New Testament passages ranged from the Gospels to the book of Acts to the epistles. The short headings often explained the link between the assigned passage and missionary work:

W. Dec. 11—The Missionary must be wise, harmless, trustful, gentle … St. Matt x. 16-20

The sequential and topic readings, however, were broken for feast days. The feast days identified in the Lectiones were identical to the days identified in The Cloud of Witness for the range of dates in number 52, with the exception of St. Thomas which was not featured in the Lectiones. The choice of feast days aligned, not surprisingly, with the standard set of feast days in Anglican prayer books as recent as the 1928 Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer.

The verses for the feast days were carefully chosen to encourage reflection on the subject of the day. For example, on October 18, the progression through Exodus was interrupted with the following:

F. Oct. 18—St. Luke Evan. A friend, constant to the end … 2 Tim. iv. 6-11

So on the feast day of St. Luke, the reader would be drawn to St. Paul’s touching words, “Only Luke is with me.” Other examples were Isaiah 63:7-14 for the feast day of St. Michael and all Angels, and Hebrews 12:1-6 for All Saints’ Day.

The readings assigned for any given day were always from a single book and usually from a single chapter with a contiguous range of verses. In four cases, the reading crossed a chapter boundary, but in those cases it was only to the subsequent chapter. Only one reading actually omitted verses within that one day’s range of verses (Acts 8:4-8, 14-17). Across the three months covered by this issue of The Lectiones, 61% of the readings were from the New Testament and 39% were from the Old Testament. (In terms of total verses assigned 59% were from the New Testament and 41% were from the Old.)

In addition to a daily assignment for Bible reading, the Lectiones also included guidance for prayer. At the top of the first page I found:

Before reading you will do well to say the Collect for the day.

Not surprisingly, the instruction was to read a liturgical prayer. However, the Lectiones also highlighted “Ember Days,” a feature of the church calendar that is ignored by The Cloud of Witness. The Ember Days are the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the First Sunday in Lent, the Feast of Pentecost, September 14, and December 13. The Ember Days were carefully noted in the Lectiones, and a special footnote was provided:

On the Ember Days pray especially for those who are soon to be ordained.

Ultimately we could have inferred many of the observations above from this description from The Parents’ Review, volume 18, pp. 456-457:

Therefore short passages called Lectiones have been selected by a committee composed mostly of schoolmasters; just ten or twelve verses are grouped round the festivals of the church; and are so selected that a boy does not say simply, “that’s over,” and get into bed, but he really thinks, “now that has meant something, there is a definite thought running through that, something that applies to my life and can be used in my life.”

But even though much of this could be inferred, it was still nice to have an actual issue of the Lectiones on hand for inspection. Of course, all of my analysis was on a sample of Lectiones for Juniors. I have never seen Spottiswoode’s Lectiones for Seniors. Perhaps I never will…

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