Note to readers: Liturgical entries on this blog are based on the traditional calendar of the Books of Common Prayer and the traditional one-year Eucharistic lectionary. If you follow a newer calendar or three-year lectionary, there are variations in names for some Sundays and in the readings.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fifth Sunday after Easter, commonly called Rogation Sunday

One historic name for the the Fifth Sunday after Easter is Rogation Sunday, and the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week have also long been known as Rogation Days. The term rogation comes from the Latin verb rogo,rogare. This is one verb for praying, and its future is used in the Latin version of St. John 16:26.

Rogation Days date to the sixth century at Rome where Christian prayers for crops were appointed. Early processional litanies were associated with this observance, and other prayers of supplication were included during times of disaster. At the time of the English Reformation, the Rogation Days continued to be occasions for the Litany (modified and first published by Cranmer in 1544).

English Books of Common Prayer from 1549 onwards continued to include the Litany petition "that it may please thee to give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth so as in due time we may enjoy them." There were also other prayers related to nature and weather. From the time of the Royal Injunctions of Queen Elizabeth I, Rogation observances have continued, and some English dioceses have developed their own authorized devotions. In 1689, the Commissioners of the C of E published an alternative collect for Rogation Sunday, and since 1892, the American BCP has incorporated this collect in the section of prayers and thanksgivings.

For Fruitful Seasons.To be used on Rogation Sunday and the Rogation Days:
ALMIGHTY God, who hast blessed the earth that it should be fruitful and bring forth whatsoever is needful for the life of man, and hast commanded us to work with quietness, and eat our own bread; Bless the labours of the husbandman, and grant such seasonable weather that we may gather in the fruits of the earth, and ever rejoice in thy goodness, to the praise of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fourth Sunday after Easter

The Gospel from St. John 16:5-15 is another selection from the Farewell Discourses where our Lord prepares the disciples for His physical absence from them. Let us focus on these words which begin at verse 13: Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

These words stress the necessity of the work of the Comforter or Holy Spirit. Christ's disciples always need guidance, and Jesus promises that the Spirit of Truth will guide them into all truth. However, this truth is not some isolated or esoteric knowledge. New applications of divine truth flow naturally from what has already been revealed.

In our passage, we see two clear characteristics of the work of the Holy Spirit and the truth which He presents. First, the work of the Holy Spirit remains Christocentric. That means that the Spirit guides believers into Christ's truth, into Christ's teachings and style of life. Anything that is really inspired by the Spirit is consistent with the message of the incarnate Lord Jesus. Secondly, like all redemptive activity, the work of the Holy Spirit is Trinitarian. God the Father is the source of truth. He has shared this with the Son, and the Spirit will continue to proclaim and apply this divine truth. These two characteristics mean that there is continuity in divine revelation and in the application of saving grace to the faithful throughout the generations. The risen Lord, the eternal Son of the Father, is still working among us and guiding us by His Spirit.

(For a different approach to today's Gospel, consult last year's post:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Third Sunday after Easter

The Gospel for the Third Sunday after Easter (St. John 16:16-22) is the first in a series of selections taken from the "Farewell Discourses" of Christ. St. John sets these discourses during Holy Week, but the words of Christ in these selections have multiple applications. The mention of not seeing Jesus for "a little while" can apply to both His Crucifixion and Death and to His Ascension. The statements about seeing Jesus again can apply apply to His Resurrection, His continuing spiritual presence among the faithful and to His Second Coming in glory.

A major theme in today's selection is expressed as follows: ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy (St. John 16: 20b). These words can be applied in different ways, but they reflect a basic dynamic of the Christian life. The disciples were sorrowful because of Christ's Passion, but their sorrow was turned into joy at His Resurrection. The disciples would be somewhat sorrowful or at least anxious with the Ascension, but joy would come again with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them. During the ups and downs of life in the world, there would be various times of trial and sorrow for the disciples. Yet, there would also be moments of rejoicing when they saw Christ again in a spiritual sense and anticipated fuller reunion with Him at the end of earthly history.

So indeed, sorrow being turned into joy is a summary of the Holy Week-Easter experience. This dynamic can be a commentary on our whole life as faithful believers. As St. John 16:22 says: And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. There are truly many sorrows of earthly life; the cross is always with us in a variety of ways. But the cross is transformed by the Resurrection. Christ lives and comes back to us again and again through Word, Sacrament and prayerful encounters. The sorrows of life in this world are repeatedly punctuated by moments of joyful resurrection and redemption. And despite times of sorrow, no one can take this joy away from those who are faithful to Christ.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Second Sunday after Easter- Good Shepherd Sunday

This Sunday has often been called Good Shepherd Sunday because of the Gospel from St. John 10:11-16. This short selection is packed with meaning and can be approached in a number of ways. The key idea, as in much of St. John's Gospel, is the identity of Jesus Christ. Two times in these verses, Jesus says, I am the good shepherd ( St. John 10: 11 and 14). These are "I AM" sayings where Christ alludes to His divine nature (see Exodus 3:14). Indeed, throughout the Old Testament, the primary shepherd is the Lord God (for example, Psalm 23). This is a unique role; Christ is not just "a" good shepherd, but rather "the" good shepherd.

Some of the many things that being the good shepherd means are highlighted in our Gospel. Jesus says :the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep (10:11- and in slightly different words in 10:15). An ordinary conscientious shepherd would face danger for his sheep, but Christ the Good Shepherd does more. He offers Himself as a sacrifice for His flock. This is a reference to the unique redemptive work of Jesus through His Passion and Death. The overwhelming significance of His self-offering is further developed in the verses which follow today's Gospel. There our Lord points out that since He lays down His life voluntarily, He can also take His life up again (10:17-18). In other words, the Good Shepherd does more than die for His sheep. He also rises to life again and continues to care for His flock.

Christ the Good Shepherd is not like a hired hand who does not have sense of ownership. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep (10:13). Instead, Christ can affirm: I am the good shepherd and know my sheep, and am known of mine, even as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father (10:14). The relationship between Christ and His flock is deeply personal and loving; it reflects the relationship between God the Father and His only begotten Son. There is a closeness and a deep knowledge of one another's nature. There is an abiding and profound commitment to each other's well-being.

This close relationship between Christ and His sheep has further implications for Christ's flock, that is to say, for His Church. Our Lord sums it up in these words, And other sheep I have... and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd (10:15). The close tie that the sheep have with their Good Shepherd means that they also have a close tie with each other. Even if they are scattered among different folds and have never met one another, they are still united because of their relationship with their shepherd. All true followers of Christ are related to each other. This is not their accomplishment; it is Christ's. Certainly, Christ's sheep may do better at cooperating with Him. Christians may do better or worse at expressing the reality of their unity in Christ. But the unity is an underlying reality based on their unity with Christ Himself.