LECTIONARY OF THE HOLY WEEK
The Holy Week lectionary service covers services from Palm Sunday to Easter. Each day of the Holy Week has five “five night hours” and “five day hours,” each of them with special readings, and a “burial service” conducted after Palm Sunday Eucharist. This last service is for those who pass away during this week. The British Library holds the most ancient complete Bohairic lectionary of the Holy Week, Manuscript N Add. 5997, dated a.m. 990 (1273 a.d.). Some fragments of the Sahidic Holy Week lectionary has also survived.
According to a tradition mentioned in the Holy Week lectionary, this book was compiled by the Patriarch Gabriel II (1131-1146) with the help of the monks of the Monastery of St. Macarius. Further lessons and also a number of short homilies or exhortations were afterward added to the lectionary by a certain Peter, Bishop of Behnasa. The attribution to Gabriel II contradicts an event known in the biography of this patriarch mentioned in the History of the Patriarchs of the Egyptian Church. When Gabriel went to the Monastery of St. Macarius, he added one extra word to the Confession that is said over the oblation.
A discussion took place between the patriarch and the monks. If adding one word to the holy liturgy had caused such a reaction, then we would expect greater reactions if the patriarch had “dared” to produce a new book. Moreover, the History of the Patriarchs would have also mentioned this event. In addition to this, some of the Sahidic fragments of the Holy Week are earlier than this date. In the 14th century, Ibn Kabar mentioned a different system of reading the Bible during Holy Week in the Monastery of St. Macarius.
It would have been quite unusual that the monks of the monastery who prepared the lectionary did not use it. To conclude, we have the most ancient lectionary from the 13th century, and in the 14th century Peter of Behnasa added new lessons. But it is hard to believe that Gabriel II had created or compiled this book. It is probable that his role involved approving a local tradition, rather than creating a new liturgical book.