Fr. David Curry
Christ Church, Windsor, NS
“In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer,
I have overcome the world”
In the midst of today’s gospel,
Jesus says “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world:
again, I leave the world, and go to the Father”. It is one of the
profoundest statements in the Gospel. It captures in a phrase the
whole of religion. It suggests something about God in himself and
something about God for us. The mission of the Son - his going out and
his returning to the Father - belongs to his essential identity.
Everything is to find its place within the relation of the Son to the Father
in the bond of the Holy Ghost. Everything finds its place in the life
of God. That life is opened to view in the mission of the Son.
We have only to enter it so as to live it. Such is the grace of God
and the struggle of our lives. But perhaps we only begin to grasp its
deeper significance from the last verse in today’s gospel: “In the world
ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”.
Everything is to be brought into
the primary relationship of the Son in his essential orientation to the
Father in the Spirit. Throughout these Sundays of Easter, Jesus
teaches us about the Holy Spirit. It is all a way of teaching us about
the fundamentally spiritual nature of reality which has been opened out to
us through Christ’s resurrection. Neither “fate”, nor
“chance”, nor “Kings”, nor “desperate men”- those
associates of death - need any longer define us. We find our truth and
our freedom in God’s victory over all that separates our humanity,
individually and collectively speaking, from God.
Through the Holy Spirit, we are
kept in the abiding love of the Son for the Father - kept in the mission of
the Son - because everything has been gathered into that relationship.
What this means for us is signified on this day - Rogation Sunday.
Rogation means asking. It is the fundamental meaning of prayer.
Prayer is asking. The further theme of Rogation Sunday is the land -
the places where we find ourselves. We make our prayers in the land
where we are placed. In so doing, our places become the places of
grace - the places where the grace of God is made known and celebrated,
regardless of the circumstances and events in our lives, regardless of
More than a statement of fact, it
is a promise. “In the world ye shall have tribulation”, Jesus
says. Somehow the tribulations of our world belong to the
understanding about the spiritual nature of all reality. There are
tribulations within and without. There are the things which happen to
us and there are the things which we think and say and do, things which
wreak havoc in our own lives, in the lives of others, and in the world
We contemplate a world of SARS,
Mad Cow Disease, the uncertainties of a post-cold war world, the atrocities
in the Congo, the ceaseless conflicts in the Middle East, the political,
social and economic unease of our own culture which has forgotten the ideals
and principles which dignify and ennoble our lives, the invariable course of
sadness and sorrows in our own lives because of death and suffering; all
these things and more are part and parcel of our world of tribulations.
“All God’s children got
problems”, as an old
gospel song sings. How true it is. Yet there is a blessing.
The blessing is to know that you are a child of God. The children of
God know that there are hardships and sufferings, for they are not to be
ignored, but even more they know the victory of Christ – “I have overcome
the world”, the world within and the world without. It doesn’t
mean running away. It doesn’t mean a flight from the world.
There are always things that
disturb and trouble us. There is always suffering. But “there is one way
only of being happy: not to be ignorant of suffering, and not to run away
from it; but to accept the transfiguration it brings. Tristitia vestra
vertetur in gaudium- “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (Henri de
Lubac). That transformation of sorrow into joy is the meaning of
Christ’s overcoming of the world. Everything is gathered into his love
for the Father.
How does Christ’s victory live in
us? Through prayer. All prayer is to the Father through the Son
in the Spirit. In prayer, we enter into the mission of the Son, his
coming forth into the world and his going back to the Father, having
gathered the whole of the world with all its woes and sadnesses into that
bond of infinite and eternal love outside of which there is only nothing.
The essential orientation of the
Son to the Father in the Spirit is itself prayer. It means seeking for
what God wants to give us. It means accepting what comes to us -
whatever that may be - as coming from the hand of God, whether to correct us
or to strengthen and enlighten us and others with a vision of the glory of
God. There are times when we do not know what to ask for. We
need to ask so as to learn what to ask for. This, too, is part of the
struggle of prayer.
In prayer, we ask for what God
wants for us, “Thy will be done”. The Lord’s Prayer - so
prominent a feature of our liturgies - is the prayer which gives shape to
every prayer that is truly prayer. It is the prayer of the Son to the
Father. He gives that prayer to us. His Father is “Our
Father”, by the grace of his coming forth and his returning to the
Father. And if we would like to learn further what exactly to pray
for, consider the Litany, traditionally prayed in procession on this day
while “beating the bounds of the parish”, embracing, as it were, the
very land of the parish in prayer; embracing, by extension, the whole world
in prayer. Rogationtide opens to view a whole world of prayer.
The theme of the land on this day
reminds us that we are creatures and that the whole of creation belongs to
the pageant of redemption. The whole of creation enters into the
praise of God through the prayer of the Son to the Father in the Holy
Spirit. The whole world is embraced in the mutual love of the Son for
the Father and the Holy Spirit; the tribulations of our fallen world and day
We see this most graphically at
the Cross. The outstretched arms of the crucified Christ embrace the
whole world in the moment of the world’s rejection of the truth of God.
The crucified Christ endures the rejection, feels it at its utmost extent –
“My God, my God why has thou forsaken me” - but turns it all into
prayer and praise. In other words, the world even in its flight from
God is embraced by God in the prayer of the Crucified. In his
outstretched arms he embraces us all to gather us into the fullness of his
redeeming love. “Father, forgive them....Father, into thy hands I
commend my spirit”. Here is the prayer of the Son to the Father in
the Spirit in all of its intensity. The Cross is the fullest meaning
of all and every tribulation that could possibly belong to our world and
We contemplate the cross in the
joy of the resurrection and find the grace to confront the tribulations of
our world and day with joy and not dismay; in short, to be, as Christ would
have us be, “of good cheer”.
“for I have
overcome the world”