Together with the Collect of the Day, these two excerpts from the Bible provide the lens through which we should focus our attention for that particular Service.
The Epistle: These letters, mostly from St. Paul and almost all addressed to entire congregations (two to Timothy and one to Philemon were addressed to individuals) are called epistles because they are formal letters, written to particular congregations for instruction or admonition.
The Holy Gospel: The word gospel comes from the Latin words for God + tale. It was translated into Old English as God spel, and eventually gospel; hence, any of the four biblical narratives (Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) which deal with substantial portions of the life, death, and resurrection of our Blessed Lord: the Good News, the Holy Gospel.
Note: We stand in witness to our joy on hearing the Good News of the Holy Gospel
Note: By tradition, the Epistle is read from the Ecclesiastical South (right) side of the altar, whereupon the Missal (the Book from which the priest reads the Mass) is moved from the South to the Ecclesiastical North side of the altar. This is called the Gospel Procession and is intended to remind us that this is the direction in which the Good News of our salvation was spread by the earliest Christian missionaries, principally St. Paul.
Note 1: Particularly on festive occasions, the Missal may be carried down into the Nave and there proclaimed in the midst of the people.
Note 2: +++ While the Holy Gospel is being announced, the people make three crosses, one on the head, that God will transform our thinking, one on the mouth, that God will purify our speech and make us effective evangelists of His ‘Good News,’ and one over our heart, petitioning Him constantly to bathe our lives in His Love.
The Old Testament: Parish clergy (and dioceses) are beginning to return to earlier use: reading a passage from the Old Testament or Apocrypha before the Epistle is read. In most cases the Church selects a reading appropriate to the occasion and marks it with an asterisk in the Psalms and Lessons listed in the front of the Book of Common Prayer. Including this Old Testament Lesson in the Eucharist, fulfills our biblical needs.