“Ask a Priest: Why is there not a Second Reading at daily Mass?”

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Q: Why is there a Second Reading only at Sunday and holy day Masses but not at regular weekday Masses? Thanks! -A.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Before the Second Vatican Council there normally used to be only one reading at Sunday Mass. This was known as the epistle. The epistle came from one of the Apostles’ letters in the New Testament.

Vatican II moved to promote the liturgical renewal that had already been under way. It aimed to immerse the faithful more fully in the Scriptures, in order to nourish our spiritual lives even more on the sacred Word.

The result was that Sunday Masses and holy days had a First Reading (from the Old Testament) and a Second Reading (from the New Testament). Adding an Old Testament reading helped to show the unity of both Testaments within salvation history (see No. 57 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal).

The Church also started a three-year cycle for Sunday Mass readings, which means that a faithful Catholic will go through the whole history of salvation every three years. A two-year cycle for daily Mass readings affords the faithful another tour. The cycle of readings before Vatican II did not permit such broad exposure to the Scriptures during the Eucharistic liturgies.

The Church probably didn’t add an additional reading to the daily Masses for practical reasons – in part, to keep the celebrations shorter, especially for people who might need to get to work or school right away.

The three Readings (including the Gospel) are on days that most people come to Mass. Moreover, the daily and Sunday cycles are independent of each other during Ordinary Time. (For more reading on the Readings at Mass, click here.) I hope this helps. God bless.

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