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CNP Feedback - Lectionary Cycle

Q. Dear CNP:

How does the Church determine whether it is Year A, B, or C?

Truly Years

A. Dear Truly:

There's really no clear rule. The Liturgical Year always begins with Advent. The three-year Lectionary was introduced in the Roman Catholic Church in Advent 1969, but using Year B readings. This pattern followed:

Advent 1969 – begin Year B
Advent 1970 – begin Year C
Advent 1971 – begin Year A [Saint Matthew]
Advent 1972 – begin Year B [Saint Mark]
Advent 1973 – begin Year C [Saint Luke]
Advent 1974 – begin Year A
Advent 1975 – begin Year B
Advent 1976 – begin Year C
Advent 1977 – begin Year A
Advent 1978 – begin Year B
Advent 1979 – begin Year C

A pattern emerged for the years from 1970 through 1997:

Take the last two digits of the year and subtract 70. If the number is divisible by 3, this was a Year C (that is, the 3rd year in the three-year cycle). For example, 1991 shortens to 91; subtract 70 to get 21, which is divisible by 3. Thus Advent 1991 began a Year C in the Lectionary.

Remember, that the Church Year begins with Advent, so the Year C readings carried all the way through most of 1992 (until the Solemnity of Christ the King in November 1992). On the next Sunday, a new Advent season (December 1992) would have begun Year A readings.

It's actually easier to determine the cycles now in the 21st century.

Just look at the last two digits of the year. If they're divisible by 3, then Advent of that year begins Cycle C. For example, 2006 shortens to 06, which is divisible by 3. So, Advent (December 2006) began the Year C readings. Advent 2007 began the A Cycle, and Advent 2008 — the B Cycle. At Advent 2009 we have the C Cycle again.

Advent 2001 – begin Year A
Advent 2002 – begin Year B
Advent 2003 – begin Year C 
Advent 2004 – begin Year A
Advent 2005 – begin Year B
Advent 2006 – begin Year C 
Advent 2007 – begin Year A
Advent 2008 – begin Year B
Advent 2009 – begin Year C 
Advent 2010 – begin Year A
Advent 2011 – begin Year B
Advent 2012 – begin Year C 
Advent 2013 – begin Year A
Advent 2014 – begin Year B
Advent 2015 – begin Year C 
Advent 2016 – begin Year A
Advent 2017 – begin Year B
Advent 2018 – begin Year C

The key is to find the Advents that are divisible by 3 — those are C Cycles. Everything else works from there. If that's more figuring than you're happy with, you can always look at the chart above, which is easy to extend.

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

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