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Rogation Sunday

Fr. David Curry

Christ Church, Windsor, NS

May 5, 2002



“I came forth from the Father and am come into the world:

again, I leave the world, and go to the Father”


Everything is embraced in the prayer of the Son to the Father.  The recurring refrain of Eastertide is, as we have said, “because I go to the Father”. The meaning of that refrain is wonderfully amplified in the Gospel for this day: “I came forth from the Father and am come into the world”, Jesus says, and “again, I leave the world, and go to the Father” (Jn.16.28).  Jesus says these words to the disciples on his way to the cross, but they have the fullness of their meaning in the Ascension, in his going to the Father.  Everything is gathered into the primacy of the spiritual relationship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  That everything includes the bitterness of our sorrows and the pains of our deaths; in short, the consequences of our sin and folly.  “In the world”, Jesus says, “ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn.16.38).


What is this “overcoming of the world”?  Is it a flight from the world or is it the subduing of the world by means of our technocratic will?  These are the senses of the language of overcoming in our contemporary culture.  They are a far remove from what Jesus is saying.  He means something more than a flight from the world and something other than our technocratic domination of the world.  The overcoming is not a forgetting of being.  It is not a forsaking of the world as if it were nothing worth.  And the overcoming, too, is not a subduing of the world or a manipulation of the world for our utility and consumption.  For in these contemporary attitudes we lose sight of the landscape of creation and our place in it.  By no means.  The Christian sense of the overcoming of the world means nothing less than the redemption of creation.  The world, too, is drawn into the liturgy of the resurrection. 


Today is known as Rogation Sunday.  The days of rogation are days of asking, days of prayer, but with a particular emphasis upon the land.  Rogation Sunday would remind us of the redemption of creation itself and our place in the landscape of creation redeemed.  The resurrection is cosmic in scope.  Prayer is an activity of redeemed humanity.  We make our prayers in the land where we have been placed.  Our places in the land are to be the places of grace.  How?  By prayer.  Rogationtide embraces the world in prayer.  The world is comprehended in the relationship of the Father and the Son in the bond of the Holy Spirit.  What is overcome is sin, the world as turned away from God and as turned against God, the world as infected and stained by our sinfulness, by our forgetfulness of our place in the landscape of creation redeemed.  The consequences are our disrespect for the land and the sea, for the world in which we have been placed.  We make a mess of it.  We forget the place of creation in the will of God; we forget about the redemption of creation.


Rogation Sunday would recall us to a kind of theology of the land.  In the story of Creation, the earth, the dry land, is said to be good (Gen.1.9,10).  And we who are made in the image of God are also formed out of the dust, “from the ground” (Gen.2.7) and placed in the garden of creation.  The garden is the land of paradise.  In the story of the Fall, our disobedience not only alienates us from God but also from the land.  The land of paradise becomes the land of sweat and toil. “Cursed is the ground because of you...In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to the dust you shall return” (Gen.3.17,18).  “And the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken” (Gen.3.23).  In the story of Cain and Abel, the land becomes the land of blood.  Cain slays Abel in the field: “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground”, God says (Gen.4.10).  These stories are altogether fundamental to what unfolds in the rest of the story of salvation in the Old and New Testaments.


But in the story of salvation, the land is also signified to become the “promised land”, the land of our renewed relationship with God.  The promised land is variously described in the Old Testament.  Its proverbial description is “the land flowing with milk and honey” (e.g. Deut.6.3), but in The Book of Genesis the promised land is just “the land which I shall give you” (Gen.13.15,17).  It may not be all that much to look at.  It signifies simply the place of our relationship with God.  That is its most basic and  fundamental sense.


In The Book of Exodus, the land is the place of revelation, the “holy ground” (Ex.3.5) where God makes both his name, “I am who I am” (Ex.3.14), and his will for his people, known to Israel through Moses.  The land is the place of liberation, the place of our liberation to God: “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land” (Ex.3.8).  It is in that sense of liberty and as given by God that the promised land is first called “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex.3.8).  Yet it is not its paradisal elements, its echoes of Eden in material and descriptive terms, which make it the promised land.  The promised land is primarily, as The Book of Deuteronomy puts it, “the place which the Lord God will choose, to make his name dwell there” (Deut.12.11), the place of our abiding in the will of God.  It is the land which God gives you; the land where the truth of God is to be honoured and respected.


Jesus intensifies and clarifies this sense of the land as “the place which the Lord God (I am Who I am) will choose, to make his name (I am Who I am) dwell there”.  He intensifies and clarifies the name of God into the names of spiritual relationship, the relationship of the Trinity. And he makes the place of our abiding in the life of God the place of redemption.  The blood which cries out from the ground to God is the blood of the Only-begotten Son of the Father.  The cry is his prayer.  It is his prayer for us.  He has gathered the whole world into his love for the Father.  His spirit, which he places into the hands of the Father, carries all of the meaning of our misuse of God and the world back to God in love.  The overcoming of the world in its opposition to God is accomplished in prayer on the cross, in the prayer of the Son to the Father in the Spirit.


 All prayer is nothing less than asking the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Spirit.  Out of the land of blood, sweat and tears comes the prayer which redeems the whole world: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Lk.23.46).  And so the land becomes the land of grace, the place of our abiding in the spiritual fellowship of the Trinity, the place of prayer and praise to the living God.


“I came forth from the Father and am come into the world:

again, I leave the world, and go to the Father”