For Catholics, the weekly Sunday Mass readings are excessively short when compared to the Passion narration that is recited (or sung) on Palm Sunday every year.

And this makes Palm Sunday somehow difficult to attend for those who have trouble standing for the entire Gospel proclamation.

However, do you know that every Sunday have been like that in the early Church?

Some of the first Christians were Jewish, and so unsurprisingly, they modeled their liturgy on the synagogue services. And this included a continuous reading of Sacred Scripture that was taken on from one week to the next.

This Sacred Scripture was divided up into two separate readings, one from the “Law” and the other from the “Prophets.”

The Early Christians similarly, shared up the readings into three separate readings, one from the Old Testament, another from the New Testament Acts, and finally, one from the Gospels.
Still, the length of each reading was not specified as it is today.

According to St. Justin Martyr during the 2nd century, he explains “And on the day called Sunday, all who stay in cities or in the country come together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits ; then, when the reader has stopped, the president verbally gave instruction, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.”

Furthermore, The Catholic Encyclopedia explains, “At this time, then, the text was continuously read from a Bible, till the president (the bishop or priest who was celebrating) told the reader to stop.”

This signifies that the recitation of Sacred Scripture varied between Christian communities and it was dependent on the bishop who was presiding. If he wanted a long reading, or a short one.

Over the Years, the Sunday readings were standardized and specific verses were selected in accordance to the liturgical calendar.

In the mid-20th Century, the Second Vatican Council further refined the practice and it returned to the original tradition of three separate readings (for many centuries the Church had only two readings).

So, if you think the Gospel is too long at the Palm Sunday liturgy, just remember that it could be longer!

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