September 18, 2010
LITURGICAL MATTERS CONCERNING THE GOSPEL LECTIONARY
What is the "Lukan Jump"?
by Archbishop Peter (L'Huillier)
The annual cycle of the Gospels is composed of four series:
1. The Gospel of St. John (read from Pascha until Pentecost Sunday);
2. The Gospel of St. Matthew (divided over seventeen weeks beginning with the Monday of the Holy Spirit - from the twelfth week, it is read on Saturdays and Sundays while the Gospel of St. Mark is read on the remaining weekdays);
3. The Gospel of St. Luke (divided over nineteen weeks beginning on the Monday after the Elevation of the Holy Cross - from the thirteenth week, is is only read on Saturdays and Sundays, while St. Mark's Gospel is read on the remaining weekdays);
4. With the exception of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Gospel of St. Mark is read during the Lenten period on Saturdays and Sundays.
Why, after the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, is the reading of the Gospel of St. Matthew suddenly interrupted and why do we start then with the reading of St. Luke? At first glance, this jump appears to be arbitrary, more especially as there is no parallel in the reading of the Epistles.
To be sure, there is nothing arbitrary, although throughout the centuries the rationale has been forgotten. First, let us keep in mind that the fact that the reading of the Gospel of St. Luke follows the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross is merely coincidental and the theological reason lies elsewhere. Actually, the change is related to the chronological proximity of the commemoration of the Conception of St. John the Baptist celebrated on September 23rd. In later Antiquity, this feast marked the beginning of the ecclesiastical New Year. Thus, the reason for starting the reading of the Lukan Gospel toward the middle of September can be understood. This is based on a vision of Salvation History: the Conception of the Forerunner constitutes the first step of the New Economy, as mentioned in the stikhera of the matins of this feast. As we know, the Evangelist Luke is the only one to mention this Conception (Lk. 1:5-24). Later on, the introduction of new feasts, especially that of the Nativity of the Theotokos (September 8th), contributed to the downgrading of the significance of the Conception of St. John.
The Orthodox in the East have always observed the "Lukan Jump." In Russia, this tradition vanished, obviously because its rationale was not known. However, some decades ago, on the advice of the great liturgical specialist, the late Professor Uspensky, the Russian Church decided to come back to the old practice of the "Lukan Jump."
Since this action implies a connection between the cycle of the "Sanctorale" (Menaia) and the cycle of the feast, the date of which is determined by the date of Pascha, there is a practical difference between the Churches following the Julian Calendar and those using the Revised Julian Calendar with regard to the timing of the "Jump." Let us finally notice that the calendars published by the "Russian Church Abroad" continue to ignore the jump re-established recently by the Moscow Patriarchate.
From Jacob's Well
Newspaper of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey
Orthodox Church in America