Paula Franck and Isabel Anders in this Church Year Primer—a guidebook to the major themes and texts of the liturgical year—offer a practical, daily answer to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s call to “hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the words of Scripture in their yearly flow and weekly rhythm.
Circle of Days: A Church Year Primer—Year A provides theologically based summaries of the readings for the Sundays and major Holy Days in Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary along with reflection questions for groups and individuals. This primer is designed for anyone who desires deeper understanding of Scripture and its meaning in our lives.
Year A—The Year of Matthew
Each of the three years of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) focuses on one of the three synoptic Gospels—Year A is the year of Matthew.
Probably written between 80-90 CE, Matthew appears as the first Gospel in the New Testament and at one time was thought to be the earliest Gospel. However, Mark actually dates earlier from 64-72 CE, and 90 per cent of Mark is found in Matthew. Although we do not know for certain who wrote any of the Gospels, Matthew has traditionally been attributed to the disciple Matthew, the tax collector mentioned in Matthew 9:9. Written for the Jewish Christian community in Antioch, Matthew wanted his readers to know that Jesus is the Messiah—the new Moses—who came in fulfillment of all the law and the prophets. To make this point, Matthew contains numerous quotations and references to the Jewish scriptures.
Matthew is often described as the Church’s teaching book and is organized around five discourses (5:1-7:27; 10:5-42; 13:1-52; 18:1-35; 24:3-25:46) reflecting the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Pentateuch). Matthew is the only Gospel in which the word church, the Greek ekklesia, appears (16:16; 18:15-21). Matthew’s teachings emphasize right practices, the fulfillment of God’s laws and ethical dimensions of living as seen in the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount in chapter 5. Those who are called “blessed” exemplify the radical nature of God’s Kingdom in which worldly standards are turned upside down.
The book begins with Jesus’ genealogy that lists the generations beginning with Abraham to show that Jesus fulfills the prophecy that the Messiah will be of the lineage of King David. Like Luke, Matthew also has a nativity narrative with the story focusing on the actions of Joseph and includes the coming of the Magi with their gifts to the Christ Child and the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt. The final verses of the Gospel (28:19-20) contain the “Great Commission” in which Jesus’ followers are to make disciples of all nations. Jesus is Emmanuel who will be with them always.
We commemorate the author of the Gospel of Matthew on September 21.
We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 244)
Praise for Circle of Days
Circle of Days is welcoming, inviting, substantive without being heavy. It so clearly takes Scripture seriously. Congratulations on what you are doing here!—The Rev. Jean Denton, author, Good Is the Flesh: Body, Soul, and Christian Faith.