Learning from the Liturgy: Easter Week

Although Holy Week gets far more attention in popular piety, Easter Week also has a special set of daily services.  For just as the events surrounding Christ’s passion and death require a full week to unpack and explore, so too do the ramifications of his resurrection!

Easter Sunday

Some churches hold a sunrise service, choosing to greet the risen Lord like the women who discovered the empty tomb, rather than staying up late at night for the miraculous resurrection moment traditionally accorded to be at midnight.  At a sunrise Eucharist service, one of the Old Testament readings is chosen from the Vigil service’s list, along with the same Epistle and Gospel from the Vigil.

The service of Morning Prayer provides us the beginning of Exodus 12, reminding us of the origins of the Passover, which sets the context for Christ’s death and resurrection.  We also read there from Revelation 1:4-18, where we find the risen Christ appearing to St. John in a vision, declaring himself to be the Beginning and the End.

The primary Sunday morning service of Holy Communion for Easter Day, however, takes on slightly different readings.  The Gospel of the resurrection might be from Matthew or Mark or Luke, the Epistle lesson is substituted with a reading from Acts (10:34-43), and the Old Testament reading is from Exodus 14 or Isaiah 25 or Isaiah 51.

The service of Evening Prayer sets forth Exodus 14, the Crossing of the Red Sea – a prototype of our Baptism into new life.  We also there read from John 20:11-23, which is an appearance of Jesus on that first Easter evening.

An evening Communion service is also appointed, where we read from Daniel 12:1-3, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, and Luke 24:13-35.

Easter Monday

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with awe the Paschal feast may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

The Gospel for the Communion service this day tells the story of how the Jewish authorities tried to cover up the “disappearance” of Jesus’ body in the tomb.  How easily we turn from the awe of that great miracle and hide the light of Christ within us!  May we never hide it under a basket or recoil in shame of our faith.

Easter Tuesday

Next we are drawn to Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene on the morning of his resurrection.  There he reminds her (and us) that his resurrection is not so that he can continue to live on earth from then on, but to prove his victory over death before returning to his Father in to complete his intercession for us.  Thus we do not cling to him in the flesh, but in his human and divine glory.

O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever.  Amen.

Easter Wednesday

The next post-resurrection appearance to be featured is in Luke 24:13-35, where Jesus walks, talks, and eats with Cleopas and another disciple (probably Luke himself).  There he demonstrates a liturgical pattern of Word (teaching) and Sacrament (holy communion) that abides to this day in the Church, where the Scriptures first are opened to the hearers, and then the revelation of Christ himself in the bread and the wine is made.

O God whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Easter Thursday

Continuing from yesterday (now Luke 24:36-49), Jesus appears to the main body of his disciples, eats with them, shows them his wounds, and teaches them from the Scriptures.  They, as we still often do, needed encouragement from God himself of the truth of the Scriptures and the Gospel they proclaim.

Almighty God, you show those in error the light of your truth so that they may return to the path of righteousness: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Easter Friday

Almighty Father, who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give us grace so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

On this day we are directed to Jesus’ appearances to a few of his disciples on a fishing expedition.  They caught nothing all night, until Jesus directed them where to cast their nets in the morning.  This rather blunt change of fortunes illustrates the fruitless of our labor outside of the strength and direction of Christ, and the fruitfulness of our labor in the Lord.

Easter Saturday

We thank you, heavenly Father, that you have delivered us from the dominion of sin and death and brought us into the kingdom of our Son; and we pray that, as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joys; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

As if to sum up the Gospel readings of the whole week, Mark 16:9-20 gives us a cursory run-down of several post-resurrection encounters Jesus had.  It even finishes with a reference to his ascension into heaven, previewing the end of the formal Easter season which is still several weeks away.

The Daily Office Readings

Like in Holy Week, the daily lectionary through Easter Week is very topical, avoiding continuous and connected readings in favor of highlighting Easter-related passages throughout the Bible. There is one exception to this, however.  The Song of Songs (or of Solomon) is read in its entirety in Evening Prayer from Monday through Saturday.  Its placement there prompts us to consider the deeper meaning of the text.  The love songs therein, celebrating the good and right joy, love, mutual desire, and self-giving between husband and wife, also point us to the great joy, love, desire, and self-giving that God has shown us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Among the topical readings throughout the week, watch for themes of new life, resurrection, Baptism, the New Covenant, and following Jesus.  Easter is a huge holiday with a whole season to plumb its depths.  Take time this week to read these passages of scripture, giving them a chance to be a week-long introduction to this joyful Eastertide.

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About Fr. Brench

I'm an Anglican Priest and a sci-fi geek. Therefore, I write about liturgy & spiritual formation, theology & biblical studies, and Doctor Who. But I keep those blogs separate so I don't confuse too many people!
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