The Sixth Sunday of Easter (Rogation Sunday)
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
What does “Rogation” mean?
“Rogation” comes from the Latin noun rogatio, meaning “asking.” Rogatio comes from the Latin verb rogare, meaning “to ask.”
The sixth Sunday after Easter is traditionally known as “Rogation Sunday.” This is because the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this upcoming week (the three days before Ascension Day, on Thursday) are known as the “Rogation Days,” days for fasting and prayer—traditionally for God’s mercy and protection from danger. Churches will often mark the Rogation days with a “Rogation procession,” and the praying of the “Great Litany.”
According to the Episcopal Church’s helpful online dictionary, the Rogation days
originated in Vienne, France, in the fifth century when Bishop Mamertus introduced days of fasting and prayer to ward off a threatened disaster. In England they were associated with the blessing of the fields at planting. The vicar “beat the bounds” of the parish, processing around the fields reciting psalms and the litany. In the United States they have been associated with rural life and with agriculture and fishing.
Here’s where you can find the prayers and liturgies for Rogation days in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Occasional Services:
The propers in the BCP [the 1979 Book of Common Prayer] (pp. 207-208, 258-259, 930) have widened their scope to include commerce and industry and the stewardship of creation. The BCP also permits their celebration at other times to accommodate different regional growing seasons. The BOS [the Book of Occasional Services] contains material for a Rogation procession, including petitions to be added to the Great Litany and the prayers of the people.
There you go. Now you know a bit more about what “rogation” means.
Now, to our collect for the week!
1. God is the strongest possible proponent of human flourishing.
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding:
I think that it is especially appropriate to pray this collect during the week of the Rogation Days.
Why? Well, because, as mentioned above, the Rogation Days were traditionally devoted to praying to God that he would mercifully withhold his wrath at humanity’s transgressions. Consider these words, from the Great Litany:
Remember not, Lord Jesus, our offenses, nor the offenses of our forebears; neither reward us according to our sins. Spare us, good Lord, spare your people, whom you have redeemed with your most precious blood, and by your mercy preserve us forever.
To be clear, praying for God’s mercy is important! However, sometimes when we focus on God’s wrath and pray for God’s mercy, we can forget that the reason God has wrath toward sin is that he wants what is best for us—and sin is not what is best for us!
God is not randomly wrathful. No! Our collect reminds us that he is the strongest possible proponent of human flourishing. The good that God has prepared for his people is beyond our understanding!
Consider the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:9:
as it is written [in Isaiah 64:4]: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
2. We need God’s help to love the right things.
Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire;
So, if God wants what’s best for us, what’s the problem? Why the need to pray for his mercy, especially during the Rogation Days?
In a word, the problem is “sin.”
On our own, we humans do not love the right things—the things which are best for us. Instead, our loves, our desires, are disordered.
In a word, then, the solution is “God.”
First, because God is the thing, the person!, whom we should love above all else.
Second, because God alone can rightly order our loves and desires.
We can’t fix ourselves. We can’t merely try harder to love the correct things. Instead, we must pray that God would “pour into our hearts such love towards [God], that we, loving [God] in all things and above all things, may obtain [God’s] promises.”
Theses “promises” include the previously mentioned “good things” God has prepared for us that “surpass our understanding.” You know, promises like the ones mentioned in Revelation 21:3–4:
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
The promises and good things of God are far better than anything sin has to offer.