What is a Lectionary?

The Lectionary is a book which contains the readings for Mass (Sundays and Weekdays), for Saints and Sacraments, and other occasions, such as funerals.

icon-home » Events » Lectionary » What is a Lectionary?

The Lectionary is a book which contains the readings for Mass (Sundays and Weekdays), for Saints and Sacraments, and other occasions, such as funerals.

At the Second Vatican Council the Lectionary was revised so that more of the treasures of scripture would be heard in the Lectionary. For example, whereas prior to the Council only 3% of the Gospel of Mark was heard now 96% is read. One consequence of this was that the Lectionary was, once more, a separate volume separated from the prayer texts of the Mass.

The Order of Readings for Mass

For the liturgical texts there is a primary Latin text which gives the official texts of the Liturgy. So the prayers used in Sunday Mass are found in the Missale Romanum — the Roman Missal. This is known as the editio typica — the typical or normative edition of the text. The Ordo Lectionum Missae (OLM) is the name of the volume which gives the contents of the Lectionary; the title can be translated as the Order of Readings for Mass. OLM was published in 1969.

Unlike the other liturgical books which provide a complete set of texts the OLM does not give the complete text of the readings in Latin. It provides the key information:

  • Scripture reference for the reading or psalm
  • The Caption — a text, not intended to be read, which offers a key to why the passage was chosen.
  • The Incipit — how the reading begins. This has two elements:
    • A formula — different books or genres can have a common beginning, For example, the pastoral epistles and the letters of St Paul addressed to an individual can begin with ‘Beloved’.
    • An opening — because a reading often starts in the middle of a section some information may need to be given, such as, ‘Jesus said to his disciples,’ so that we know who is speaking to whom.
  • Psalm response — the text of the response, which is often taken from the psalm, is given
  • Acclamation before the Gospel verse — the text of the verse is also given in OLM.
  • All these texts are given in Latin and so need to be translated or drawn from the scripture text.

2nd edition

A revised edition of OLM, an editio typica altera, was issued in 1981. In addition to including texts for rites and celebrations which had been added since 1969 it offered the following:

  • An expanded Introduction which provided a theological-liturgical overview of the place of scripture within Mass.
  • For Feasts of the Lord (e.g. the Baptism of the Lord) an optional set of readings for Years B & C.
  • For Sundays in Ordinary Time a suggested verse for the Acclamation before the Gospel — which may be replaced.
  • For the Proper of Saints — suggested readings from the Commons for each celebration (the first edition had only pointed to the Commons).

Since 1981

Though there has not been a new Latin edition of the Lectionary since 1981 there have been developments which the new 2024 edition of the Lectionary will encompass.

  • Saints who have been added to the General Roman Calendar since 1981.
  • Some additional texts from new or revised editions of rites
  • Publication of the Roman Missal, 3rd edition:
    • Pentecost Vigil — full text
    • Additional celebrations on Various Needs and Occasions and Votive Masses
    • Rubrics which give greater clarity about the choice and use of readings

In addition, following the example of the 1981 Lectionary in England and Wales additional texts have been included for celebrations which occur without Mass but it was understood to be useful to include in the Lectionary. These include texts for RCIA and the readings for the Order of Penance.


Volume 1
Sundays, Solemnities and Feasts of the Lord

  • Proper of Time
  • Advent
  • Christmas
  • Lent
  • Triduum
  • Easter
  • Ordinary Time ABC
  • Solemnities & Feasts of the Lord

Volume 2
Weekdays I

  • Proper of Time
  • Advent
  • Christmas
  • Ordinary Time I & II (Weeks 1-9)
  • Lent
  • Easter
  • Proper of Saints
  • c. December – May

Volume 3
Weekdays II

  • Proper of Time
  • Ordinary Time I & II (Weeks 6-34)
  • Proper of Saints
  • c. June – November

Volume 4

  • Ritual Masses
  • Masses for Various Needs and Occasions
  • Votive Masses
  • Masses for the Dead


What is a Lectionary?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a Catholic edition of the Bible?
Translating the Bible

< Back to main page for the Lectionary