This Sunday was known in the old Roman rite as Dominica in albis depositis, from the fact that those who had been baptized on Easter Eve for the first time laid aside their white baptismal robes on this Sunday. It is also commonly known as Low Sunday, probably in contrast to the high festivity of the previous week. though some suggest it has to do with the attendance. Another name is Clausum Paschae, the close of Easter, signifying that it is the close of the Octave of Easter, we would not use this name now, owing to the recovery of the fifty days of Easter. Finally we may note that from the opening words of the introit in the old Latin Mass (1 Peter 2.2 Quasi modo geniti infantes, “like newborn babes”) this Sunday was known as Quasimodo. As an infant Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame was found on this day, hence being named Quasimodo. [Sources: Missale Romanum ; Catholic Encyclopaedia (1913); Handbook of Dates for Students of English History.]
First Reading: Acts 1.14a, 22-32. During Eastertide the first readings for the Sunday Eucharist are selected from the Acts of the Apostles, and present us with the first proclamation of the Risen Christ and the response to that proclamation.
Psalm 16. This Psalm is set for today because it is quoted in the first reading as a proophesy of the resurrection.
The Epistle: 1 Peter 1.3-9. The First Letter of Peter was written to encourage the churches in northern Asia Minor who were suffering persecution. There is some doubt about the ascription of this letter to St Peter, which are based on the excellence of the Greek style and the apparent reflections of Paul’s epistles. Against this itis argued that Peter may have entrusted the actual composition of the letter to a a companion, possibly Silvanus. It was apparently written from Rome (if “Babylon” in 5:13 is correctly understood as a cryptic name for Rome, as in Rev 17.1).
In the section we hear this Sunday, the readers are encouraged to rejoice in the new and living hope to which they have been reborn in Christ even though they face persecution for a little while. Those who remain faitfhul through the present trials are like gold that has been refined, but infinitely more precious. The conlcuding verses reflect on today’s Gospel passage for the readers have loved Christ even though they have never seen him, and though they do not see him now theybelieve in him.
The Holy Gospel : John 20.19-31. This passage from St John’s Gospel includes events in the first week of the Resurrection – in our terms, the first Easter Day, Easter Week, and the Second Sunday of Easter. On the evening of the first day of the week, ion which Jesus was raised, the disciples were gathered in hiding. Suddenly, Jesus is among them, and gives the greeting. He showed them his wounds, so that they would know him. The he breathes the Spirit upon them, and gives the commission to forgive sins. (We may note here in pasing that in classic Anglican theology, this moment is seen as the beginning of the ordained ministry.) Sometime in the week that followed, the disciples told Thomas, who had not been with them, “We have seen the Lord”. But Thomas refused to believe on their witness, claiming that only if he saw the Lord and touched his wounds would he believe. The following Sunday, when all the disciples were gathered, Jesus appeared again, and Thomas came to faith, apparently without touching Christ’s wounds. At this the Lord said, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." The passage ends with the evangelist’s explanation of why he wrote the Gospel: so that the reader (that is, we) might believe that Jesus is Christ and have life in his name.
From this passage it seems impossible that there can be truth faith apart from the community of the discioles, that is, the Church The appearances of the risen Lord happen to the community when it is gathered on the Lord’s Day; Thomas is unbleieving because he was not there. The next Lord’s Day, when Thomas is again with the others, he comes to know that the Lord is risen. Indeed, he recognizes Jesus whom he had known as “Lord and God”.
Our belief rests on the testimony of the first believers, but it is not only that we read it in the Gospels. As this passage also tells us, we also believe because of the livng experience of the Risen Christ in the Church, in prayer and sacrament, as we gather week by week on the Lord’s Day.
It is still Eastertide: How do we keep rejoicing?
It is important to remember that although Easter day is past, Easter itself does not end even with the Octave Day. At the Daily Office and the Holy Eucharist, Alleluia is added to the dismissal and the people’s response; and where it is customary to use antiphons with psalms and canticles, alleluia is also used. For individual members of the Church it is a challenge to know how best to mark the fifty days of Easter in their personal or family prayers. Some resources for Easter are found on Anglicans Online (http://anglicansonline.org/special/lent.html), but not many, except for the Triduum and Easter Day itself. You might use the psalms and readings appointed for the Daily Office, or make a selection. These are found in the BAS on pp. 463-468. As I have remarked elsewhere, some guides for keeping a holy Eastertide would be of some value at home.