Readings and responsories for Eastertide

During Septuagesimatide and Lent, the Matins reading cycle traditionally takes in the opening books of the Bible, above all Genesis.

During Eastertide, the books read are those from the other end of the book: Acts, the Catholic Epistles (James Peter, John, Jude) and the book of Revelation (Apocalypse).

The ancient Easter cycle

This reading cycle goes back to the oldest evidence we have for the Roman Office, in Ordo XIV, (probably) from the seventh century, which prescribes:
diebus autem  paschae epistulae apostolorum et actus apostolorum atque apocalypsin usque ad pentecosten
The same books, though, were also read in Gaul in the sixth century, according to the Rule of Caesarius of Arles, so this cycle may well have been more or less universal in the West by St Benedict's time.

There is an obvious logic to it: we start in Lent with the creation of the world, and the first ages of man; in Eastertide we trace the establishment of the Church and the start of the new age of the world, including foreshadowing its future to the second coming and beyond.

In the Benedictine Office, of course, we have now shifted into summer mode, so on weekdays we have only one, fixed short reading at Matins each day, from Romans; most of the reading of Acts, Apocalypse and the Epistles occurs either in the refectory or as lectio divina.

The current arrangement of the readings

In the modern (post Tridentine - 1962) Roman Office, however, the order of readings has been shifted to put Acts first, rather than after the Catholic Epistles.

The Benedictine Office adopts the same basic pattern, giving a set of Sunday readings as follows:

Easter Sunday
Romans 6: 2-13
Gregory Nazaranus   - Oratio 1&5 on Easter
Gregory the Great Homily 21 on the Gospels
Mk 16:1-7
White Sunday
Colossians 3:1-17
Augustine Homily on Octave of Easter
Gregory Homily 25 on the Gospels
Jn 20:19-31
Easter II
Acts 1:1-26
Leo sermon 73
Gregory Homily 14
John 10:11-16
Easter III
Rev 1:1-19
Augustine sermon 242
Augustine, Tract 101 on John
Jn 16:16-22
Easter IV
James 1: 1-16
Cyprian: Tract on the good of patience
Augustine, Tract 94 on John
Jn 16: 5-14
Easter V
1 Peter 1:1-9
Ambrose: On faith in the resurrection
Augustine, Tract 102 on John
Jn 16: 23-30
Sunday after the Ascension
1 John 1:1-2:6
Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 210 on the Ascension
Augustine, tract 92 on John
Jn 15:26-7; 16:1-4.

The responsories

There are effectively four sets of responsories used in Eastertide:

  • those for Easter and its Octave, used up until and including the Second Sunday after the Easter octave, most of which contain specific references to the events of the Resurrection;
  • a set for the third Sunday, which mainly relate to the book of Revelation; 
  • the third set of responsories based on the psalms, all of which have a strong Easter flavour, used on Sundays 4&5; and
  • the responsories for the feast of the Ascension and its pseudo-Octave.