Lectionarium or LESSONS. Of the many real and supposed meanings of the expression lectio (ἀνάγνωσις, ἀνάγνωσμα), we have here only to consider the liturgical. In this sense it is used to designate the reading, which, together with singing, prayers, preaching, and the administration of the sacraments, constitutes public worship.
This part of worship is adopted from the Jews, and, like that of the synagogues, was at first restricted to the reading of their sacred books (O.T.). The first record we find of the reading of the N.-Test. Scriptures in the churches is in Justin, Apol. 1, cap. 67. But the fact of the reading of the Bible in general from the earliest times is clearly established by passages of Tertullian (Apolog. cap. 39; De aninza, cap. 9), Cyprian (Ep. 24,33, edit. Oberth. 34), Origen (Contra Cels. 3:45, ed. Oberth. 50), etc. It is self- evident that the canonical books and the homologoumena were those most generally read. But that lessons were occasionally read also from the Apocrypha and Antilegomena is shown by the yet remaining lists of libri ecclesiastici and ἀναγινωσκόμενα, i.e. of such books as, although not recognised as authorities in matters of faith, are still permitted to be read in the churches. Other writings, especially acta martyrum, and sermons of some of the most distinguished fathers, came afterwards to be also read to the people. The number of pieces (lectiones) read at each service varied;
the author of the Apostolic Constitutions (2, 100:57) mentions four; two was the minimumone from the Gospels, the other from the epistles or other books, including those of the O.T. SEE PERICOPAE. At first the portions to be read, at least on every ordinary Sunday, were taken in succession in the sacred books (lectio continua), but afterwards special portions were appointed to be read on certain Sundays, and the selection was made by the bishop, until at last a regular system of lessons was contrived, which is the base of the one still used at present in churches where the strictly liturgical service is adhered to. For feast-days, at first, special lessons were appointed (for instance, the account of the resurrection on Easter: see Augustine, Serm. 139, 140). But it is not known at what time the plan which forms the basis of the present system was first adopted. Yet Ranke (Das Kirchl. Perikopensystem, Berl. 1847) gives us good reasons for thinking that tradition may be correct in representing Jerome as the author of the ancient list of lessons known under the name of "comes," and as the originator of the system in the Western Church.
Such lists, indicating the portions of Scripture to be read in public assemblies on the different days of the year, are named lectionaria (sc. volumina) or lectionarii (libri); Greek, ἀναγνωστικά εὐαγγελιστάρια, ἐκλογάδια (they are also called evangeliarium et epistolare; evangqelia ctum epistolis; comes). In Latin the principal are the "Lect. Gallicanum," in Mabillon, Liturg. Gallic., the "comes" of Jerome; the "Calendarilnu Romanunz" (edit. Fronto, Par. 1652); the "Tabula antiquarum lectionum," in Pauli, Ad missas, in Gerbert, Monzum. liturg. Alen. 1:409. See Augusti, Denkwiidigk. vol. 6; Handb. der chr. Arch. 2:6; Ranke, Das Kirchl. Perikopensystem; Palmer, Orig. Lit. I, 1:10; Bingham, Orig. Eccles. 14:3, § 2; Procter, History of Book of Common Prayer, p. 216 sq.; Martene, De Ant. Eccles. Rit. 4:5, 1 sq.; Freeman, Principles of Divine Service, 1:125 sq. SEE LITURGY.
The reading of the lesson in the early ages of the Church was entrusted to the lector (q.v.). At present, in the Romish mass, when the number of officiating priests is complete, the epistle is read by the subdeacon and the Gospel by the deacon. See Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 8:268; Blunt, Dict. of Doctr. and Hist. Theol. p. 408 sq. SEE LESSON. (J. H. W.)