Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Frequently Asked Questions



Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures

Saint Dominic
contemplating the Scriptures

  1. What is the Revised Common Lectionary?
  2. What are Comments?
  3. Who is the author?
  4. Who is the publisher?
  5. Why do the Old Testament texts in Comments differ from the RCL I'm using?
  6. What texts are commented on?
  7. What is "semi-continuous"?
  8. Why aren't there comments for the Feast day I'm looking for?
  9. Are there any rules for interpreting the calendar?
  10. What resources are used?
  11. Are there any size limitations?
  12. When are Comments updated?
  13. Can I subscribe?
  14. What is the history of the Comments web site?
  15. What is the significance of St Dominic?
  16. I have a web site. Can I link to Comments?
  17. Can Comments link to my site?
  18. Why doesn't Comments have a links page?
  19. I use Word for Windows 6.x - what file format should I choose?
  20. I use AOL - how can I use attached files from e-mail?
  21. I'm having trouble printing the lectionary texts. How can I do it?
  22. How can I give my feedback, or have another question answered here?

What is the Revised Common Lectionary?

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) was produced by the Consultation on Common Texts, an ecumenical body formed in the mid-1960's for consultation on worship renewal among the Christian churches of the United States and Canada. The RCL gives a scheme of readings for Sundays and a few main feast days. Users of the RCL will read the greater part of the Bible in three years. Year A (beginning Advent 1995, 1998, 2001...) concentrates on the Gospel of Matthew, while Year B focuses on the Gospel of Mark, and Year C on Luke. The Gospel of John is read chiefly around Christmas, Lent and Easter, and during Year B, as Mark is shorter than the other two Synoptic Gospels. Readings from the rest of the New Testament, the Old Testament and the Psalms round out the selection for each week. Sometimes readings from the Apocryphal / Deutero-Canonical books appear in the lectionary. When this occurs, there is always an alternative reading from the Old Testament.

The term lectionary can be applied both to a scheme of readings (as used here), or to the readings themselves, generally published in book form. Various denominational publishers make the readings available as a single book or in leaflet form for distribution to congregations.

The RCL is available on-line from Vanderbilt University (including tables of the lessons and the texts themselves), or in book form, published in Canada by Wood Lake Books, in the United States by Abingdon Press and in Great Britain by the Canterbury Press, Norwich. For more information on the RCL, the official book contains an excellent introduction, a history of the RCL and a bibliography.

Return to top


What are Comments?

Comments are brief exegetical discussions of the texts for each Sunday. They are written in straightforward language suitable for any adult who wants to gain a broader understanding of the Scriptures. In printed form, Comments are designed for distribution to congregations with a Sunday bulletin. Some churches distribute them at the back of the church. (Distributing at the back of the church is a lower-cost way of finding out whether there is a significant readership.)

The Comments web site provides three pages for each week:

  • a commentary on the week's lessons, with links to the texts as found on the Vanderbilt University Lectionary site;
  • Introductions for Readers, which may be used in the liturgy;
  • Clippings - more extensive notes that were not used in the commentary because of space limitations or complexity.

Return to top


Who is the author?

The author of Comments is Dr Chris Haslam. Now retired from consulting, Dr Haslam holds a Ph.D. in Engineering. He returned to university part-time to study theology in 1989, and has studied at the graduate level. Dr Haslam is a member of the Diocese of Montreal (Anglican Church of Canada). Each Sunday, he leads an adult Bible Study at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Montreal, Canada.

Return to top


Who is the publisher?

The present publisher, Jane Aitkens, is a member of the Montreal Anglican cathedral congregation, and the Cathedral Webmistress. Her actual paying job is Systems Librarian at McGill University.

Return to top


Why do the Old Testament texts in Comments differ from the RCL I'm using?

During Ordinary Time the Revised Common Lectionary provides two options for the Old Testament lesson and Psalm, one providing a semi-continuous progression through the Old Testament, and the other geared to the theme of the Gospel lesson. Comments use the semi-continuous option, which is the standard for the Anglican Church of Canada. If your church uses the thematic option, then the first two readings will be different, but the New Testament and Gospel readings will be the same. We hope that Comments are still useful to you.

Return to top


What texts are commented on?

Comments are provided for the readings of the Sunday each week. During Ordinary Time the Revised Common Lectionary provides two options for the Old Testament lesson and Psalm, one providing a semi-continuous progression through the Old Testament, and the other geared to the theme of the Gospel lesson. Comments use the semi-continuous option, which is the standard for the Anglican Church of Canada.

Where there are choices of readings within the option, commentaries and introductions are supplied for all the readings, and a note concerning the option is provided. Where feast days occur, which may take precedence over the Sunday readings in some denominations, Comments are normally provided for both the Sunday lections and the Feast day.

Return to top


What is "semi-continuous"?

The first set of Old Testament readings in Ordinary Time (the Green seasons for those who use liturgical colour) is "semi-continuous". This means that essentially complete stories or threads are read over a number of Sundays. In this way, we read consecutively through large portions of single biblical books, with few omissions. When this option is chosen (as Comments does) the Old Testament or Apocryphal lesson is not specifically related to the Gospel or the New Testament lessons. (Occasionally one hears sermons bravely preached by people who do not realize this fact, and the homiletical contortions used to relate the readings can be quite staggering.) The New Testament readings are always semi-continuous in Ordinary Time.

The second option for Old Testament readings does relate these to the Gospel lesson. This option is used by a minority of churches and does not appear in Comments. The reason for not including this option is entirely arbitrary: the Anglican Church of Canada recommends the semi-continuous option, and we have limited energy to comment on extra texts, which we tend to expend for special days.

In either case, the Psalm or Canticle is always related thematically to the first reading.

During special seasons (the non-Green coloured ones of Lent, Easter, Advent and Christmas) all the readings for a given Sunday are related to each other by theme.

Return to top


Why aren't there comments for the Feast day I'm looking for?

The inclusion of extra commemorations that supercede the Sunday is controversial. During the Reformation, lectionary reform (notably by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury) attempted to reduce these special commemorations to an absolute minimum, because they interfered with the semi-continuous reading of the Bible. Along the same lines, the Revised Common Lectionary provides for a very limited number of feasts in order to allow for the more or less complete reading of the Bible from cover to cover in a three-year span.

Comments follows the wisdom of the Revised Common Lectionary in not generally providing for extra feasts, with the exception of those mandated by the Anglican Church of Canada. Your denomination's rules may differ somewhat, and therefore you may find that a given feast day appears to be excluded for an arbitrary reason.

For more detail, see the next question.

Return to top


Are there any rules for interpreting the calendar?

Briefly, yes. While the Revised Common Lectionary uses an ecumenical approach to the ecclesiastical calendar, each denomination typically has its own rules. Sometimes two parts of the same communion may have slightly different rules, as is the case with the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada, for example.

Comments follows the calendar of the Anglican Church of Canada, though we do try to take ecumenical considerations into account. In our calendar, only certain Principal Feasts and Holy Days may supplant the Sunday Readings. Most feasts cannot be transferred on to a Sunday unless that feast is the Patronal Festival of the parish. Certain feasts may optionally be celebrated on a Sunday if the date naturally falls on a Sunday. Other feasts are always transferred off the Sunday if they are to be kept at all.

The feasts that may supercede a Sunday observance are:

  • The Naming of Jesus (January 1)
  • The Epiphany (January 6)
  • The Presentation of the Lord (February 2)
  • The Birth of St John the Baptist (June 24)*
  • Saint Peter and Saint Paul (June 29)*
  • The Transfiguration of the Lord (August 6)**
  • Saint Mary the Virgin (August 15)*
  • Holy Cross (September 14)
  • Saint Michael and All Angels (September 29)*
  • All Saints (November 1)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)

In addition to these, the Epiphany (January 6) may optionally be transferred onto the preceding Sunday, and All Saints (November 1) may optionally be transferred onto the following Sunday. Harvest Thanksgiving may be observed on a Sunday according to local custom. Some parishes observe Thanksgiving on Sunday before the second Monday of October (the Canadian Thanksgiving Day), while some observe the festival on the Sunday previous. The Revised Common Lectionary supplies texts for this observance.

The Revised Common Lectionary does not provide for feasts above marked with an asterisk. For those feasts we use the texts specified by the Anglican Church of Canada.

For the Transfiguration, the Revised Common Lectionary provides for the feast as the Last Sunday After Epiphany. We use those readings for the current year when the Transfiguration is to be celebrated on a Sunday in August (as in 2000). In future, this feast's place in the calendar may be subject to review, as its inclusion in August is redundant.

Return to top


What resources are used?

A complete bibliography of books and software used in preparing Comments is available.

Return to top


Are there any size limitations?

Comments was initially designed to fit on a single 8 x 11 inch page, printed landscape in two columns. This makes it ideal for distribution as a bulletin insert. The space limitation also helps to keep Comments brief and manageable for the reader, and for the author.

Extra material, which may be more technical in nature, is included in Clippings.

Return to top


When are Comments updated?

Comments are normally updated on Tuesday (in the Eastern time zone, GMT-5). The update is usually completed by the afternoon, but occasionally there may be an unavoidable delay. As we provide two weeks' worth of Comments, we hope that periodic delays will cause a minimum of inconvenience.

Return to top


Can I subscribe?

Subscriptions to Comments by e-mail attachment are available.

Return to top


What is the history of the Comments web site?

Comments were initially published as a weekly bulletin insert at the Church of St James the Apostle, and later sent by e-mail to the Parish of Lachute.

In July, 1996, a rudimentary demonstration web page containing the commentary for the next Sunday with links to the readings was created. The main purpose of this page was to show the Bishop of Montreal some of the potential of the World Wide Web. The page was maintained for two or three weeks. Beginning in August, 1996, Comments has been maintained continuously and has evolved since. A counter, added in late August, 1996, showed some 17 hits per week. A year later, there were close to 500 hits per week, and by the end of 1998, over 1300 visitors were stopping by on a regular basis. Readership continues to grow. See also Now we are Six!.

The Comments site has grown in both form and content. Added pages required navigational elements and a graphical design. Improvements to content have included:

  • Introductions for readers
  • Brief outlines of the various biblical books
  • Clippings - extra notes for which there was not enough space
  • A subscription service
  • A bibliography
  • A Portuguese version
  • A French version

The Portuguese version of Comments has been offered since October, 1996. Written by Bishop Sumio Takatsu, of the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, these commentaries follow the lectionary for that church, which is an earlier version of the Common Lectionary.

The French version, Commentaires, went on-line in December, 1998. This version was translated and adapted from the English version, and the web pages maintained by Michel Gagnon of the Diocese of Montreal.

Most of the developments in the evolution of the web site have come as a result of feedback from visitors. If you have any suggestions, please pass them on.

Return to top


What is the significance of St Dominic?

The Dominican Order (Ordo Praedicatorum) has sought throughout its existence to foster learning and orthodoxy. The icon of its founder studying the scriptures is particularly appropriate to grace a web site dedicated to similar goals.

Return to top


I have a web site. Can I link to Comments?

Yes, please do! The URL is http://www.montreal.anglican.org/comments/

A note to webmasters: Two or three people have deduced the file naming convention used by Comments and linked directly to individual pages within the site. We do not generally recommend this practise because, as Comments has evolved, we have had to change or expand our naming convention on at least four occasions. While we cannot foresee any such need in the immediate future, it may arise again unpredictably. In general, it is best to link to our main page, as specifed above.

Return to top


Can Comments link to my site?

Comments does not provides links to other sites, but we recommend http://www.spirit-net.ca/sermon.html, a site provided and maintained by Richard Fairchild. For reasons, please see the next question.

Return to top


Why doesn't Comments have a links page?

We believe that there are two types of web site: content sites, which seek to provide high-quality material, and meta sites, which seek to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date set of links to content sites. Some sites, of course, are hybrids, and include both. Comments is a content site, and we prefer to spend our energy in providing high-quality material. We choose not to compete with meta sites because:
  • we really don't have the energy or time to devote to a high-quality set of links;
  • others do that task far better than we could;
  • we see those sites as partners in our mission.
If we tried to set up a links page it would not reflect the kind of quality that we strive for. Therefore, we suggest that you use a good-quality meta site such as
http://www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermon.html, maintained by Richard Fairchild.

Return to top


I use Word for Windows 6.x - what file format should I choose?

Choose the Wordperfect 5.1 format. Check that you have the following file converter installed: WPFT5.CNV. It should be in your msapps\textconv directory. Microsoft also provides a suppplementary converter kit:
Supp. WordPerfect 5.x & 6.x Converters Kit
*Do not extract this file in the Word directory.*
This kit contains an updated WP 5.x converter, and an import-only WP 6.x converter for use with Word for Windows 6.x. (961373 bytes, published 06/20/95 )

Return to top


I use AOL - how can I use attached files from e-mail?

The AOL e-mail client does not easily handle file attachments. However, there is software available to help with the task. We recommend you contact AOL customer support.

Return to top


I'm having trouble printing the lectionary texts. How can I do it?

Before we discuss techniques to print the texts, we should like to point out two things:
  1. The Lectionary texts are not on our site, and thus we can neither take responsibility for them, nor make any changes to them. The texts are provided by the Divinity Library of Vanderbilt University.
  2. As we understand it, part of the mandate of the Lectionary Project at Vanderbilt is to display some of their art collection. Hence the fancy backgrounds. The backgrounds often require that the text be displayed in a colour other than black. Hence the trouble printing in these cases.

In those cases where it proves difficult to print the text, we suggest you use the cut-and-paste technique to copy the text to a standard word-processing document. From there you can reformat the text as desired and print in the usual way. The process is quite simple and is described below. Incidentally, you can use this technique to copy text from any web page. Just be careful not to violate copyright.

Instructions to cut-and-paste from any web page to your word processor:
(These instructions will work with any MS-Windows software)

  1. Place your mouse cursor at the beginning of the section you want to copy;
  2. Click and hold the mouse button;
  3. Drag the cursor to the end of the section you want to copy (the text will change colour);
  4. Press Ctrl-C to copy to the Windows Clipboard;
  5. Open a new file in your favourite Word Processor;
  6. Place the cursor where you would like to place the copied text;
  7. Press Ctrl-V to insert the text.

Return to top


How can I give my feedback, or have another question answered here?

We always welcome feedback or questions. Questions related to the content of Comments are best directed to the author, . Questions related to the form or other issues may be sent to the editor/webmaster, .

Return to top


© 1997-2009 Chris Haslam



Web page maintained by

Christ Church Cathedral
© 1996-2014
Last Updated: 20140715

Click on a button below to move to another page in the site.
If you are already on that page, you will be taken to the top.

July 13
July 20
July 27