As we find ourselves within the Octave of Easter, it seems only appropriate to provide a preview of the weekday lections as they appear in our sources from Easter until the Ascension of Our Lord.
It should be noted that each day within the Octave of Easter has its own full mass (some with their own sequences), as do the Rogation Days and the Vigil of the Ascension.
The readings marked with an asterisk are historic readings that differ in some quite minor way from what is given in Lutheran Service Book.
The Gospels within the Octave of Easter first recount the events immediately following the Resurrection, beginning with the road to Emmaus (Monday), then St. Luke’s account of the disciples in the upper room (Tuesday), and the miraculous catch of fish (Wednesday). Alongside these Gospels are set three Epistles from the Acts of the Apostles, which recount St. Peter’s preaching of the resurrection.
On Thursday and Saturday, the focus shifts back to Easter morning. Thursday’s Gospel gives us St. John’s detailed account of Mary Magdalene at the tomb, and Saturday’s Gospel provides the portion of St. John’s resurrection account immediately preceding. Friday takes a slightly different approach, instead providing us with the last four verses of St. Matthew’s Gospel and the sending of the disciples.
The entire week, but particularly the last three days, are characterized by baptismal themes, as the Church prays for and reflects on those who were baptized at the Vigil of Easter. The Collect for Thursday prays that “those who have been born again in the baptismal font may be one both in inward faith and outward devotion,” and the Epistle immediately following recounts the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch from Acts. On Friday, the Epistle from 1 Peter is read in which the Flood is noted as a type of Baptism, and Saturday’s Epistle from 1 Peter 2 contains the words that will comprise the antiphon for the next day’s Introit: “As newborn babes, desire the spiritual milk of the word…”
The First and Second Weeks after Easter
The Octave of Easter forms a cohesive thematic unit with the two following weeks. The Gospel for Quasimodogeniti, the First Sunday after Easter, recounts the appearance of Our Lord to the apostles in the locked upper room, together with Thomas’ confession. The following Sunday, Misericordias Domini, commonly called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” gives us Jesus’ description of Himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.
The weekday Gospels of these two weeks continue to provide accounts from and reflections on Easter Day. Those of Quasimodogeniti week show us the response of the witnesses of the resurrection as they go and tell others what they have seen. The Gospel for the Wednesday after Misericordias Domini is the account of the resurrection from St. Luke, the final resurrection account, and in the Gospel for the Friday after Misericordias Domini, Jesus speaks of the disciples not fasting while the Bridegroom is with them, then telling them that there will come a time when the Bridegroom is taken from them, and they will once again fast. This, together with the Gospel of the following Sunday, Jubilate, provides the bridge between the two halves of Eastertide.
The Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays after Easter
At this point, the focus of the readings shifts away from the Resurrection and the readings instead begin to anticipate the Ascension. The Gospel for Jubilate, the Third Sunday after Easter, continues the theme from the Friday preceding: “A little while, and ye shall not see me.” The Wednesday Gospel after Jubilate focuses on the heavenly origin of the Christ, and the Friday Gospel on the Father who sent Him to be a light to the world. The Epistles of this week follow the emphasis of the Sunday Epistle with a focus on living as a Christian and growing in good works.
From Cantate Sunday through the Vigil of the Ascension, the Sunday and weekday Gospels (with the exception of the Rogation Days) are focused almost singlemindedly on the departure of the Son to His Father.
Sundays “of” or “after” Easter
Having briefly looked at the mass readings between Easter and Ascension, you may well now understand why these Sundays are more traditionally referred to as Sundays “after” rather than “of” Easter. While the three weeks from Easter Day until the end of Misericordias Domini week are very much “of” Easter in their emphasis, the weeks following are increasingly oriented toward the coming Ascension of Our Lord, and are not really “of Easter,” except in the appointed texts for the Verses.
I hope these readings and this overview prove helpful. Ascensiontide and Pentecost readings will be posted at a later date.