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Services for Easter Sunday.
Morning Lessons, Exodus xii.; Romans vi. Evening Lessons, Exodus xiv.; Acts ii. from
Epistle, Col. iii. 1.
Gospel, St. John xx. 1.
Morning Psalms, ii. vii. exi.
Evening Psalms, cxiii. cxiv. cxviii.
Almighty God, Who through Thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; we humbly beseech Thee, that, as by Thy special grace preventing us Thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by Thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
This is the highest of all feasts. This day Christ opened to us the door of life, being the first-fruits of those that rose from the dead; Whose resurrection was our life, for He rose again "for our justification."
Instead of the usual invitation, “O come, let us sing unto the Lord," holy Church uses special hymns or anthems concerning Christ's resurrection. Having kept company with the Apostles and first believers, in standing by the cross weeping upon Good Friday, and kept a fast upon the Saturday following to comply with the Apostles and Catholic Church, who were that day sad and pensive, because their Lord was taken away from
them, we are directed this day to rejoice with them for the rising again of our Lord, and to express our joy in the same words that they then did, and the Church ever since hath done, "Christ is risen," the usual morning salutation this day all the Church over.
Holy Church's aim is in all these chief days to represent as full as may be the very business of the day, and to put us into the same holy affections that the Apostles and other Christians were when they were first done; she represents Christ born at Christmas, and would have us so affected that day yearly, as the first believers were at the first tidings delivered by the Angel. So at His Passion she would have us so affected with sorrow, as they were that stood by the cross. And now, at His resurrection, she desires so to represent it to us, as may put us into the same rejoicing that those dejected Christians were, when the Angel told them, "He is not here, but is risen." Holy Church supposes us to have fasted and wept on Good Friday and the day following, because our Lord was taken away, according to that saying of our Saviour, "The time shall come that the Bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days;" and now calls upon us to weep no more, for "Christ is risen." And that she may keep time also with the first tidings of the resurrection, she observes the Angel's direction to the women, "Go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen." Supposing us as eager of the joyful news as they were, she withholds not the joy, but tells us "Christ is risen."
Proper PSALMS at MORNING are II. LVII. CXI.
The first of these is a triumphant song for Christ's victory over all His enemies that so furiously raged against Him. "Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Sion." Notwithstanding all the fury of His enemies that persecuted and murdered Him, "yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Sion," by His glorious resurrection from the dead," as it is explained Acts xiii. 33.
PSALM LVII. is of the same nature. It mentions Christ's triumph over hell and death: " My soul is among lions;" and "the children of men have laid a net for My feet, and pressed down My soul," crucifying the Lord of glory; but "God sent from heaven, and saved Him from" the lions, both devils and men, by a glorious resurrection. And therefore He breaks forth, "Awake up, my glory; awake, lute and harp: I myself will awake right early; I will give thanks unto Thee, O Lord!"
PSALM CXI. is a psalm of thanksgiving for "marvellous works of redemption:" this of Christ's resurrection is the chief, and most worthy to be had in honour. And therefore, though it be not set particularly for the resurrection, but may serve for any marvellous act of mercy, yet is it most fit for this day and the work of this; for amongst all the marvellous works of redemption, this of Christ's resurrection is the chief, and most worthy by us to be had in honour. For "if Christ be not risen, we are yet in our sins," we are utterly lost. But "Christ is risen;" "the merciful and gracious Lord hath so done His marvellous work" of Christ's resurrection, that it "ought to be had in remembrance."
For which holy Church teaches us to
sing, as we are bound, "I will give thanks unto the Lord with my whole heart, secretly among the faithful, and in the congregation."
EVENING PSALMS are CXIII. CXIV. CXVIII.
The first is a Psalm of thanksgiving, especially for raising up Christ, "taking Him out of the dust, and lifting Him out of the mire, to set Him with the princes;" when "He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principalities and powers, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come."
PSALM CXVIII. is (part of it at least) of Christ's resurrection, as it is expounded; "the stone which the builders refused, is become the head of the corner" this day. And therefore "this is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."
PSALM CXIV. may seem at first sight not so applicable to Christ's resurrection; for it is a thanksgiving for the Jews' deliverance out of Egypt. Yet notwithstanding, if we look well into it, we shall find it proper enough for the day. For as the Apostle teaches us, "all things happened to them in types and figures;" not only words but actions were typical. Egypt was a type of hell, and their captivity there a type of our captivity under sin and the devil; their deliverance from thence, a type and figure of our deliverance from hell; and that which the Psalmist here gives thanks for as past, in the history, is understood to be meant as much or more in the prophecy of Christ's redemption of His Church (the
true Israelites, "that walk in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham") from sin and hell by the power of His glorious resurrection this day.
The first Morning Lesson is Exod. xii., in which is mentioned the institution of the Passover, proper for this day, the Feast of the Passover; for as St. Augustine observes, "we do in this feast not only call to mind the history of our Saviour's resurrection, but also celebrate the mystery of ours." That as Christ this day rose again from death to life, so by Christ and the virtue of His resurrection shall we be made alive, and rise from death to life eternal. Christ is therefore our true Passover, whereof the other was a type. The Lesson, then, is proper for the day.
So is the first Evening Lesson (Exod. xiv.), for it is concerning the Israelites' deliverance out of Egypt, a type of our deliverance from hell this day by Christ's glorious resurrection. As that day Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon Egypt; so this day we see the great conquest over hell and death finished, by Christ's triumphant resurrection from the dead.
"Blessed are they that mourn," said our blessed Lord, "for they shall be comforted." "They that sow in tears," said the Psalmist, "shall reap in joy." "Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Never were these divine sayings so fully made good, as in that glorious morning which we now commemorate, when the deepest sorrow was changed into the highest joy, by the triumphant resurrection of Christ from