Home      Back to Rogation Sunday





Rogation Sunday

Fr. David Curry

Christ Church, Windsor, NS

AD 2003



“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 tribulation.


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 around us.


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 notwithstanding.


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 day.


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”