Pericope (liturgy)

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Pericopes of Henry II , St. Peter receives the keys

Pericopes (from Gr. Περιϰοπή perikopé - "round cut piece", derived from περικόπτειν - "cut around"), called capitula in the language of the Latin Middle Ages , are the sections of the Bible that are intended for reading in worship .


In the liturgy of the Catholic Church a distinction is made between the pericopes between the so-called epistles ( epistolae ) for the readings and the gospels since the 12th century .

The reading of scriptures , which passed from the synagogue into the church, was first a continuous reading of the Bible text ( lectio continua ) in the old church , and since the 5th century, in connection with the idea of ​​the church year, then increasingly a reading of selected sections ( lectio selecta ) . In order to fix the selection and to enable the finding of the sections in the biblical full texts, first pericopes were created according to the order of the festivals of the church year and added to the biblical full texts from which the reading was carried out. Such lists are called capitularia (capitularies) or Liber comitis (with comitis as an adjectival formation to comma "incision, section, pericope") and then also Comes ("companion") due to the reinterpretation of this apparently incomprehensible expression . By creating such indexes as separate books and writing out the text section to be read for each location, the lectionaries emerged from the pericope indexes by the 7th century at the latest and then increasingly replaced the biblical full texts as templates for the reading.

A complete Lectionary ( Lectionarium ) contains an epistolary ( Epistolarium "collection of Epistles") and a Gospel Lectionary ( Evangelistarium , also called "Pericopes" in the narrow sense, collection of Evangelienperikopen), both of which can exist as separate books and then in the literature sometimes referred to as a lectionary. Since the 8th century, the lectionary was often combined with other liturgical books, especially the sacramentary and later the gradual , to form a missal (missal), which largely supplanted the lectionary in the late Middle Ages. One of the most famous pericopes is that of Henry II, which has been a UNESCO World Document Heritage since 2003 .

The development up to the time of Charlemagne mainly owes the existence of the gospel pericopes and epistles prescribed for all Sundays and feast days in the church year of the Catholic Church. Martin Luther kept this with a few changes, while Ulrich Zwingli preached continuously on the Gospel of Matthew when he first appeared in the Reformation in 1519 . The Reformed Church, on the other hand, gave its preachers the free choice of a pericope. In the Evangelical Lutheran Church , too, attempts have recently been made with newly chosen sequences of biblical passages.

Pericopes in the Roman Catholic Church

According to the reading order of the Catholic Church for Sundays , the most important passages of the Bible are read every three years. There is a separate reading order for the weekdays, which, apart from the marked times of Advent and Lent and some days of remembrance of the saints, provides for two reading years for the first reading, each of which includes the same Gospel .

Pericopes in the Protestant Church in Germany

In the Protestant Church in Germany, six rows of pericopes have been in use since at least 1953 (mostly listed as I to VI). One row is in use for a church year, i.e. from 1st Advent to Eternal Sunday. According to the principle of consonance (of the sounding together), she assigns the readings for the Gospel (always from pericope row I), epistle (always from pericope row II) and OT, as well as the sermon text (from the current pericope row) on every Sunday and holiday. During the validity of Pericope Row I, the Gospel text and the sermon text are identical; while Pericope Series II is in effect, the epistle text and the sermon text. After six years the cycle starts all over again. For example, from 1st Advent 2012 to Eternal Sunday 2013, the pericope row V.

On the 1st of Advent, December 2nd, 2018, a new order of pericopes, the "Order of texts and songs for worship", was introduced, which is based on the previous order, but has been further developed for the present. In particular, the proportion of texts from the Old Testament has been significantly expanded and, for the first time, sections from Psalms are intended as sermon texts. The first row of pericopes I for the church year 2018/2019 begins on the 1st of Advent 2018.

Pericopes in the Danish folk church

The reading order of the Danish national church from 1992 consists of two annual series in which three readings (one from the Old Testament, one from the Apostles' letters and one from the Gospels) are given every Sunday. The three readings are coordinated in terms of content.

Pericopes in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland

The reading order of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland from the year 2000 consists of three annual series in which three readings (one from the Old Testament, one from the Apostles' letters and one from the Gospels) are given every Sunday. The three readings are coordinated in terms of content.


Web links

Wiktionary: Pericope book  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Evangelical Church Hymns Edition for the Evangelical Church in Württemberg. With sermon texts. 12th edition 1961. Verlagkontor des Evangelisches Gesangbuch, Stuttgart 1953, p. Appendix, p. 139 .
  2. Liturgical Conference for the Evangelical Church in Germany (ed.): Pericope book according to the order of worship texts and songs. With introductory texts on Sundays and public holidays . Luther-Verlag, Bielefeld 2018, ISBN 978-3-7858-0741-5 , pp. XIX f .