It’s a little unfair to run a comparison between Easter Week in the traditional Prayer Books and the modern ones; the major difference is that before the great revision of the 1970’s Easter Week only contained two special weekdays – Monday and Tuesday – while the new books have special a Communion service for each day through Saturday.
I can’t help but wonder how many Anglican (or Episcopalian) churches actually take advantage of all six weekdays between the first two Sundays of Eastertide. After all, the prevailing opinion after the rigors of Holy Week and Easter Day seems to be along these lines:
Whateverso, whether it’s two days or six, we have a Prayer-Book-authorized tradition of continued celebration after Easter Day.
The traditional Easter Monday’s Collect is as follows:
O God, whose blessed Son did manifest himself to his disciplines in the breaking of bread; Open, we pray thee, the eyes of our faith, that we may behold thee in all thy works; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
It was paired with a reading from Acts 10:34-43 and Luke 24:13-35. In the modern calendar the same Collect and Gospel show up on Easter Thursday, which I assume is due to its eucharistic theme – providing an echo of Maundy Thursday a week later. Instead of Acts 10, however, Acts 3:11-26 is paired with with the Gospel & Collect, replacing Saint Peter’s teaching to Cornelius with his sermon about the fulfillment of the prophets in Jesus Christ, which still matches up with Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel reading – perhaps even more succinctly.
The traditional Easter Tuesday has the same Collect as the modern Easter Monday – that we who celebrate the Paschal feast may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys. The readings are completely different, however. The traditional appointment is Acts 13:26-41 and Luke 24:36-48 (Paul’s preaching and Jesus’ second appearance, to all the eleven on Easter evening).
The logic of the traditional calendar is an interesting mix of continual build-up and topical array. The Gospel readings are both from Luke 24, following the course of the afternoon and evening of the first Easter Day. The readings from Acts chime in with apostolic preaching that spells out the singularity of salvation in Christ.
The modern Easter Week, however, looks like this:
Monday: Acts 2:14,22-32 (Peter’s first sermon of OT background for Christ)
Matthew 28:9-15 (Jesus sends the women to the disciples, soldiers are given hush money)
Tuesday: Acts 2:14,36-41 (Peter’s first sermon, calling for repentance and baptism)
John 20:11-18 (Jesus speaks with Mary Magdalene in the garden)
Wednesday: Acts 3:1-10 (Peter & John heal a lame beggar)
Luke 24:13-35 (Jesus with two disciplines on the road to Emmaus)
Thursday: Acts 3:11-26 (Peter’s second sermon, identifying Jesus as the greatest prophet)
Luke 24:36-49 (Jesus with the disciples on that first evening)
Friday: 1 Peter 1:3-9 (Peter’s greeting of joy in Christ despite trials)
John 21:1-14 (Jesus visits seven disciples going fishing)
Saturday: Acts 4:1-22 (Peter and John defend their faith in Jesus before a Jewish council)
Mark 16:9-20 (St. Mark’s quick summary of post-resurrection events)
The emphasis, for both readings, is on continuity of story. The Gospel readings follow closely (though not quite exhaustively) the narrative of the rest of Jesus’ resurrection day, and then moves on through most of his post-resurrection appearances. A couple major omissions can be identified, such as the story of Thomas’ denial, but those are generally covered on the following two Sundays (as well as a bit of overlap with the Gospels read in this week). The first lesson focuses on the beginning of Acts, especially the earliest examples of apostolic preaching. There is a tradition that the modern lectionary takes very seriously of reading the book of Acts through the Easter season. I cannot account for the reason behind this, exactly (why not start this at Pentecost, for example?) but it is a prominent feature of the Eastertide lectionary entries.
A cynic might accuse the modern Easter Week of destroying the Prayer Book tradition’s take on Easter Monday and Tuesday. A more charitable take on the modern form, however, would be that the traditional approach of tracing the post-resurrection stories of Jesus and the apostolic preaching in Acts has simply been expanded from two days to six. The topic coherence is lessened (especially the old Eucharistic focus on Easter Monday), but the scriptural coverage is widened.
And, of course, a real question to ask before even trying to get into a debate between old and new here is who’s actually going to church during Easter week? Does all our planning go into Holy Week such that Easter week days are neglected? Are we so burned out by the end of the Easter Vigil that we don’t have any energy left to keep up the celebration of the resurrection for another two or six days? Interesting things to think about.
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