Letters from the Future

Notice something different about the readings at Mass these past few weeks?

We normally talk about the three readings as “Old Testament, New Testament, Gospel.” (Not that the Gospels are not part of the New Testament, but they are in a special category.)

During the Easter season, that’s not what happens, though. The first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles! And this year, year C of the lectionary cycle, the second reading is from the Revelation of John! What’s going on?

There’s an older way of describing the three readings that helped this make sense to me. Sometimes they are described as readings from the Prophets, the Epistles, and the Gospel.

During Eastertide, we emphasize the “already” in our “already-and-not-yet” inaugurated eschatology. Liturgically, we are living in the new age inaugurated by the Resurrection; and from the perspective of that new age, the stories of the infant church told in Acts are stories of “the prophets”. There’s a sort of analogy —
Old Testament age : Church age :: Church age : Age to come

And in Year C, instead of getting passages from the letters of Peter or John that were written for and about early church, our epistles are passages from the Revelation of John that describe the church in its eschatological fullness, with all the faithful gathered around and worshiping the Lamb, when the old heaven and the old earth have passed away.

Letters from the future!

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