Between the first reading—the Old Testament—and the Epistle, the Gradual is sung. The name “gradual” comes from the Latin “gradus.” The lessons were read from an elevated reading desk. The verses of the Psalm, especially selected to harmonize with the lessons and thoughts of the Day, were sung while the second reader, who was to read the Gospel, ascended the steps (gradus). The Gradual today serves to prepare for the reading of and listening to God’s Word.
An epistle is a letter. In the Jewish service, there were set lessons for each Sabbath service. The Christian church continued this practice. The second lesson read at the Divine Service is the Epistle and is taken from the letters of the Apostles. The Apostles were close to Jesus. They heard His wonderful teachings. Now we listen to what they have to say.
“The Little Service Book” was written by the Rev. Berthold von Schenk (1895-1974), pastor of Our Saviour—New York, as an explanation of the Common Service for children.