The more I preach, teach, pray, and study, the more I am struck by how much is in the Christian calendar. I’m beginning to see how all the other spaces in the church year, the time between the Sundays and all the other observances, feasts, and commemorations that have fallen out of use for many in the modern world, all fit together and fill in, and it’s really neat. Take today, for instance — this is Rogation Tuesday, one of a series of three days leading up to Ascension. They’re days of supplication and prayer, originally started in 5th century France, and from there they spread throughout the whole church, only to drop out of use for the large part (when exactly, I’m not sure, although rationalism & pietism may have had something to do with it — as with the dying off of much of the liturgical life of the past.) Yet these days are very useful. We all need to be reminded to pray, and that’s what these days do. It’s especially appropriate that they come right before the Ascension of Our Lord, whom we pray to and who has promised to hear our every prayer. He is seated at the right hand of the Father to intercede continually for us, and to help us always. What a great reason to pray! I can’t think of a better one. I love getting into all those nooks and crannies and forgotten corners of the church year. There’s lots of good stuff in there, if only we know where to look. We didn’t have an official Rogation Day service here at Zion, but we did hear the readings for this day at the nursing home service this morning here in town, and we prayed the collect (=prayer of the day) and the Lesser Litany (which is a longer prayer not heard too often, but still had some wonderful things to say), which is customary on these three days before Ascension. So we used the content the Church has passed down for this day, we just didn’t label it as such or advertise it like we do with other services. As I continue to minister and labor here in the Lord’s vineyard, I’ve learned in a hurry to lean on the church’s wisdom and guidance that she provides in the lectionary. What a wonderful tool…for those readers who are pastors but don’t use the lectionary, why not give it a shot? It gives your people the ultimate balanced diet, and everything hangs together. An example: most of the Gospels after Easter (from Good Shepherd Sunday, Misericordias Domini, onward) have been from John 16. These have anticipated the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and their thoughts and themes have been a wonderful bridge between the great events of Easter and Pentecost. Last Sunday’s Gospel, John16:23-30, included the promise of Jesus for the Father to hear and answer prayer in Jesus’ name — and what do the Rogation Days focus on in their readings? Prayer, its power, its efficacy, its promises (based on the Word of God.) The connections between the different feasts, commemorations, and Sundays of the church year all hang together very solidly and organically when one looks closely at them. Making these riches available to my people has become a priority for me. There’s just so much they can benefit from.
If you’re interested, here’s the Collect for the Rogation Days (the same one is prayed all 3 days):
Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God: that we who in all our troubles and adversities do put our trust and confidence in Thy mercy, may ever be defended by Thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost: ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Jesus still prays for us as He intercedes for us at the throne of the Father in heaven…what better reason to pray today? Thanks be to God!
He still does.