Literally, a letter, the name was given to the first of the two NT readings in the eucharist. The majority of these passages were taken from the epistolary literature of the NT, such as the letters of Paul to communities of Christians in various places. On occasion, other books (Acts, Revelation, or OT readings) were substituted. In such cases the 1662 BCP prescribed the introduction: "The portion of Scripture appointed for the Epistle is written in . . . ." The Prayer Book permits the reader of the second lection to conclude with the formula "Here ends the Epistle," which is appropriate only when the reading is actually taken from the epistolary literature.
Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.