Lessons vs Readings

In my gradual journey to discover what sort of CofE church I might like to attend regularly, I was deeply shocked (well, mildly intrigued) to find that the lessons in a service I attended recently were introduced as readings, and concluded by the words "here ends the Xth reading".

Is this about making things easier for the congregation, so that people mustn't feel obligated to do any thinking, and can regard it as more like a poetry recital?

Also as a minor point of curiosity, are there many places that proclaim "here endeth the Xth lesson" rather than "here ends the Xth lesson"?

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  • I am a heretic who prefers "ends". "Lesson" or "reading" doesn't concern me either. I must be getting mellow in my middle age.

    Would you need a BCP service to have "endeth"? I'm guessing most modern translations would go for the modern ending.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    Well in my pads we'd say "Lord, may your Word live in us" (OZ)
    or
    "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church" (NZ)
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited September 28
    Baptists would never say "lessons", with the possible exception of a Carol Service. But does it really matter? I like those Oz and NZ endings, by the way.
  • I am sure it doesn't matter one bit. This was however the first cathedral where I have experienced a reading instead of a lesson, and it just got me wondering why. Someone somewhere must have sat down and thought "hmmm, calling these lessons simply won't do, from now on in this cathedral we shall do things differently and call them readings". I am just intrigued as to what their rationale was.
  • In the BCP communion service there are no lessons or readings. - just the Epistle and Gospel. BCP Morning and Evening Prayer have ‘lessons’.

    Of course the root of ‘lesson’ is the Latin word for reading, and at the time the BCP came into being much of the content of school lessons would simply have been the teacher reading to the students.

    The greater separation of meaning between ‘lesson’ and ‘reading’ is a subsequent phenomenon.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    Our Church uses lessons/readings interchangeably.

    No big deal.
  • "Common Worship" speaks of "readings" at Morning Prayer and probably elsewhere.
  • SipechSipech Shipmate
    To-May-Toe
    To-Mar-Toe
  • finelinefineline Purgatory Host
    In my fairly limited experience of C of E services, which includes high church and traditional convents, but not cathedrals, I don’t think I’ve ever heard readings being called lessons. And all other denominations I’ve been to call them readings. I only know ‘lessons’ from when Kings College do their ‘Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.’

    I would imagine simply that ‘reading’ makes more sense to the average person who isn’t steeped in C of E tradition. ‘Lesson’ is associated more with school, at least here in the UK.
  • finelinefineline Purgatory Host
    Even on the King’s College webpage about their Nine Lessons and Carols, they describe it as ‘carols and readings from the Bible.’
  • It may not have been something that someone sat down and consciously thought about; it may simply have been that someone along the line just started calling them "readings" instead of "lessons" because that's what they always did, and it stuck. That's happened with a few things in our place.
  • finelinefineline Purgatory Host
    Or maybe they had new people and asked them to read, and the new people called them readings, if that's what they were used to, and it wasn't considered polite or important to contradict them.
  • 'Lesson' is a translation of the Latin 'Lectio' which means reading. So what the Prayer Book calls a 'lesson' is a 'reading' in modern English. 'Lesson' in modern English means something different. Whatever reasons there might be for using archaic language in the liturgy, it surely should not be so archaic as to mislead people. Of course there is a didactic element to the readings from Scripture, but that is not the primary purpose of reading them in the liturgy. The church is not a classroom.
  • Zappa wrote: »
    "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church" (NZ)

    Would that count the Hebrew Scriptures?

    That said, one has to have a soft-spot for "A NZPB" - apart from the ghastly colour and the scribbly draw-rings (NZ accent transliterated)

  • Galilit wrote: »
    Zappa wrote: »
    "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church" (NZ)

    Would that count the Hebrew Scriptures?
    FWIW, I’m used to hearing “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church” as an introduction to a reading, not as a response. And yes, that would include the OT/Hebrew Scripture reading.

  • I think the reason for calling readings from scripture "Lessons" probably has its roots in the BCP Collect for the 2nd Sunday in Advent:
    ...Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them...
    Cranmer at his best, and a good example of the desire of the reformers for the scriptures to be not only heard in the vulgar tongue but understood by the faithful so that they could learn from them and, as it says in the General Thanksgiving
    ...show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives...
    .
  • Yes, indeed, Cranmer Had It Right, but these days the word 'lessons' doesn't quite equate to 'readings'.

    At the Sunday Eucharist at Our Place, we usually end the Bible readings with 'This is the Word of the Lord/Thanks be to God', in approved C of E fashion.

    On one or two occasions at weekday Morning Prayer, I've ended a particularly difficult (for me) OT reading with 'Hear ends the first reading' (rather than This is the Word of the Lord, clearly indicating my disagreement with that statement....).

    IJ
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    yohan300 wrote: »
    Also as a minor point of curiosity, are there many places that proclaim "here endeth the Xth lesson" rather than "here ends the Xth lesson"?
    Yes, if we're doing 1662 evensong - it's mandated.
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    Galilit wrote: »
    Zappa wrote: »
    "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church" (NZ)

    Would that count the Hebrew Scriptures?

    Yes, unless you are Marcionite heretics.
  • Leo wrote: »
    yohan300 wrote: »
    Also as a minor point of curiosity, are there many places that proclaim "here endeth the Xth lesson" rather than "here ends the Xth lesson"?
    Yes, if we're doing 1662 evensong - it's mandated.

    Is it? If so where do I find that and the words to introduce a reading? I am at present trying to copy the reader of the first lesson and failing.

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Is it? If so where do I find that and the words to introduce a reading? I am at present trying to copy the reader of the first lesson and failing.
    It comes just before the Te Deum in Morning Prayer but should be taken to apply to both readings in Morning and Evening Prayer.

    There is separate and different rubric for the Epistle and Gospel at Holy Communion.

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    My recollection of BCP Morning Prayer services here a half century ago was that after each reading, the reader would say "Here endeth the first (etc) lesson" to which the response would be "Thanks be to God".

    These days, the reader says "Hear the ord of the Lord" with the same response. A difference after the Gospel though - the deacon who has read it says "The Gospel of the Lord" (elevating the Gospel Book) with the response "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ".
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    Galilit wrote: »
    Zappa wrote: »
    "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church" (NZ)

    Would that count the Hebrew Scriptures?

    You betcha
    Galilit wrote: »

    That said, one has to have a soft-spot for "A NZPB" - apart from the ghastly colour and the scribbly draw-rings (NZ accent transliterated)

    Funnily enough I think I'm the only cleric in NZ who is not enthusiastic about it. It has some Moments™ but has far too many "let's show that we know better than the rest of the liturgical world, so we'll stick a prayer here and a canticle here just for fun" :smirk: moments, too.
  • Jengie Jon wrote: »

    Is it? If so where do I find that and the words to introduce a reading? I am at present trying to copy the reader of the first lesson and failing.

    The text of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is online here. The Order for Morning Prayer includes this rubric.
    Note that before every Lesson the Minister shall say, Here beginneth such a Chapter, or Verse of such a Chapter, of such a Book: And after every Lesson, Here endeth the First, or the Second Lesson.

    This is not repeated in The Order for Evening Prayer, but it is clearly applicable there as well.
  • Leo wrote: »
    yohan300 wrote: »
    Also as a minor point of curiosity, are there many places that proclaim "here endeth the Xth lesson" rather than "here ends the Xth lesson"?
    Yes, if we're doing 1662 evensong - it's mandated.

    At my place it seems to depend on who is doing the reading at Evensong. Some say “lesson” and some say “reading”. I doubt many people notice. Very occasionally, someone may forget where they are and finish by saying “this is the word of the Lord” at which point two or three people respond by mumbling “Thanks be to God”
  • I agree that "lesson" and "reading" are the same word, exactly. Latinate and Anglo-Saxon. Like "elevator" and "lift." But of course we tend to hear "lesson" as something to be learned, which isn't meant but isn't bad either.
  • > "endeth" < isn't quick anymore, it needs to be dead.

    Use of the word "lesson" is tone deaf for some readings, like women being cursed with lots of pain in childbirth on the kicking out of Eden.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Is it? If so where do I find that and the words to introduce a reading? I am at present trying to copy the reader of the first lesson and failing.
    It comes just before the Te Deum in Morning Prayer but should be taken to apply to both readings in Morning and Evening Prayer.

    There is separate and different rubric for the Epistle and Gospel at Holy Communion.

    Thanks that is useful. I will look it up and make sure I get it right in future.
  • > "endeth" < isn't quick anymore, it needs to be dead.

    Use of the word "lesson" is tone deaf for some readings, like women being cursed with lots of pain in childbirth on the kicking out of Eden.

    When you are saying "and holpen your servant Israel" really 'endeth' is not a problem. It is not anachronistic when used with the BCP but part of the language that the whole service is characterised by.
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    Spike wrote: »
    Leo wrote: »
    yohan300 wrote: »
    Also as a minor point of curiosity, are there many places that proclaim "here endeth the Xth lesson" rather than "here ends the Xth lesson"?
    Yes, if we're doing 1662 evensong - it's mandated.

    At my place it seems to depend on who is doing the reading at Evensong. Some say “lesson” and some say “reading”. I doubt many people notice. Very occasionally, someone may forget where they are and finish by saying “this is the word of the Lord” at which point two or three people respond by mumbling “Thanks be to God”

    Not on my watch - I instruct lectors on the words they are to use to top and tail lessons. And woe betide anytone who talks about a reading being 'taken from'- what did they do? tear it out?
  • My gripe (but I have no authority in these matters any more) is people who insist on reading out the full scriptural reference before reading the passage. Either people have a pew bible in which case they will need to have found the right place well beforehand; or they have a service sheet with the text, or at least the reference, printed; or they are happy to sit and simply listen. It's redundant, and - especially if done before the liturgical Gospel with its response - intrusive.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited September 30
    angloid wrote: »
    My gripe is people who insist on reading out the full scriptural reference before reading the passage.
    Twice, sometimes!

  • Just back from reading at a confirmation service. No intro needed as
    a) it was announced by the minister
    b) it was printed out in full in the service booklet.
    Perhaps there was no need to read it aloud?🤦‍♀️🏃‍♀️
  • finelinefineline Purgatory Host
    I wonder if the people who read out the full scripture reference are from different church traditions. In the evangelical churches I grew up attending, that was the norm, and people generally brought their own Bibles (though there were pew Bibles too) and had no problem finding the references quickly. The person reading pauses a little after the reference, so people can find it, same as when a hymn number is announced. It's pretty similar to finding a hymn if you are familiar with your Bible.

    I found it quite disorienting when I first went to a liturgical church and only the book of the Bible was announced - I was determined to find the passage my Bible, but by the time I did, the reading was finished!
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I'm with @fineline and not with @angloid on this one. To me, that's attempting to impose one's own weird shibboleths on the rest of us without good reason. And I don't get the point about giving out the reference being intrusive. If you want to be able to read the passage you need to be able to find it. With the acoustics of many churches and the way some people read, that may be the only way you'll get anything from it.
  • finelinefineline Purgatory Host
    Certainly I prefer following it visually, as my auditory processing isn't great, so I take in a passage much better if I see it. Plus, I like reading it in the context of the Bible rather than printed out on a sheet, because I find it helpful to look at the context around it. And I like to look back on it during the homily.

    I guess in a liturgical church it isn't so necessary to read out the references, because in theory the congregation know beforehand what the passage will be and can look it up to prepare. I am generally not that organised though!
  • Enoch wrote: »
    And I don't get the point about giving out the reference being intrusive.

    I was referring specifically to the announcement of the Gospel at the eucharist, where the reader is directed to say 'Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N' to which the response is 'Glory to you, O Lord.' To insert chapter and verse numbers means the response loses its power, and even sounds banal.

    I agree that in a church where everyone has a bible in front of them and is used to quickly looking up references, and when the reader allows them time to do that, it makes more sense. But in a liturgical, and specifically Anglican, context it's not necessary. In fact, announcing the references, rather than not, then becomes the 'shibboleth.'
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I'm CofE and experience church 'in a liturgical context'. None of the churches I normally attend provide a fresh printed sheet every week for the whole congregation. So people need to know where they can find the passage. If you really don't like including the full reference in the formal introduction to the gospel, then there's no sensible alternative to giving out the reference first and then following it with the formal 'liturgical' introduction.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    angloid wrote: »
    My gripe (but I have no authority in these matters any more) is people who insist on reading out the full scriptural reference before reading the passage. Either people have a pew bible in which case they will need to have found the right place well beforehand; or they have a service sheet with the text, or at least the reference, printed; or they are happy to sit and simply listen. It's redundant, and - especially if done before the liturgical Gospel with its response - intrusive.

    It's written into the script of NZ and I think OZ eucharistic liturgies
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    I knew someone who would throw in the "headings" [?] the NIV had for good measure as well. "Jesus turns water into wine", "The parable of the sheep and goats", "Jesus instructs his followers", etc.

    I wish we had read Psalms as I could see 'For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David. When the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, "Is not David hiding among us?"' being a useful introduction.
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    A minister I know prepares a short introduction to each reading, putting it into context, which people have appreciated.

    It has always struck me that we are usually expected to listen to a reading and make sense of it without knowing anything about its context, so I like this idea, especially if the passage is obscure or somewhat unfamiliar. This is actually more useful than chapter and verse.
  • Puzzler wrote: »
    A minister I know prepares a short introduction to each reading, putting it into context, which people have appreciated.

    It has always struck me that we are usually expected to listen to a reading and make sense of it without knowing anything about its context, so I like this idea, especially if the passage is obscure or somewhat unfamiliar. This is actually more useful than chapter and verse.

    Isn't this what the sermon is for?
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    Of course, but one sentence so you know what you are listening to is appreciated, especially if it is unfamiliar territory.
  • OblatusOblatus Shipmate
    All the varying individual lectors' preferences for introducing a reading/lesson made a local seminary specify that at its liturgies, the introduction should be "A reading from ___." The blank is to be filled in with the shortest possible name for the biblical book. "A reading from Isaiah." "A reading from Luke." The customary even listed what these names should be. An exception is the Gospel in the Holy Eucharist rite, which has its own longer intro specified. But no more "A reading from the second book of Moses, commonly called Exodus."
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    angloid wrote: »
    My gripe (but I have no authority in these matters any more) is people who insist on reading out the full scriptural reference before reading the passage. Either people have a pew bible in which case they will need to have found the right place well beforehand; or they have a service sheet with the text, or at least the reference, printed; or they are happy to sit and simply listen. It's redundant, and - especially if done before the liturgical Gospel with its response - intrusive.

    I so agree - but have to put up with it every week.
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    angloid wrote: »
    Enoch wrote: »
    And I don't get the point about giving out the reference being intrusive.

    I was referring specifically to the announcement of the Gospel at the eucharist, where the reader is directed to say 'Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N' to which the response is 'Glory to you, O Lord.' To insert chapter and verse numbers means the response loses its power, and even sounds banal.

    Even more banal, we had an elderly priest who would add to all that 'which you will find in your pew bibles on page XXX'.

    If I was standing nearby with a thurible I'd be tempted.....
  • fineline wrote: »
    I would imagine simply that ‘reading’ makes more sense to the average person who isn’t steeped in C of E tradition. ‘Lesson’ is associated more with school, at least here in the UK.

    I grew up in a UK school with a C of E ethos. Things that were read in chapel were either lessons or the Gospel.

    As I remember, lessons were introduced as, for example, "The Word of God is written in the second book of Kings". Might even have been "..in the sixth chapter of the second book of Kings, beginning at the first verse."

    I don't think that "does this make sense to the average person" was ever a feature of my schooling.

    At my current TEC shack, the priest has mandated that each lesson is preceded by a little potted summary. I find this rather irritating; mercifully the Gospel is spared such indignities.
  • finelinefineline Purgatory Host

    I don't think that "does this make sense to the average person" was ever a feature of my schooling.

    I think that is quite common in schools, especially private schools. The school becomes a kind of mini world in itself - there are traditions that are specific to the school and cherished, many of which would be seen as a bit odd to the average person outside of the school.
  • Leo wrote: »
    Spike wrote: »
    Leo wrote: »
    yohan300 wrote: »
    Also as a minor point of curiosity, are there many places that proclaim "here endeth the Xth lesson" rather than "here ends the Xth lesson"?
    Yes, if we're doing 1662 evensong - it's mandated.

    At my place it seems to depend on who is doing the reading at Evensong. Some say “lesson” and some say “reading”. I doubt many people notice. Very occasionally, someone may forget where they are and finish by saying “this is the word of the Lord” at which point two or three people respond by mumbling “Thanks be to God”

    Not on my watch - I instruct lectors on the words they are to use to top and tail lessons. And woe betide anytone who talks about a reading being 'taken from'- what did they do? tear it out?

    Perhaps a little grace is in order? Not everyone appreciates being lectured or to being talked down to by like a child in class
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    The task of the liturgist is to teach liturgy.
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