The BCP

Fifth Sunday after Easter

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Collect

O LORD, from whom all good things do come: Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Collect Commentary

The Lord God who is our Creator and Sustainer provides us in the created order -- in its water, heat and light, fruit and vegetables -- with ìall good thingsî for our bodily and material needs. Further, the same the Lord our God, who is our Saviour and King, provides for us in the ministries of holy, mother Church with ìall good thingsî for our eternal salvation in a right relation with him.

In the light of such plenteous provision for body and soul, it is the vocation of his creatures, who are his adopted children, to think and to do what pleases him. By the presence and inspiration of his Holy Spirit, and through the growth of the word of God in their hearts, baptized, faithful Christians are enabled to think not only that which is right but also that which is good. Further, by the merciful guidance of the same Spirit they are also able to perform good works, as faith works by love, to glorify their heavenly Father.

This Sunday is also called Rogation Sunday for the week following contains the Three Rogation Days, being the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Holy Thursday, or the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord.

If we follow the old tradition of the Ecclesia Anglicana (& the western Catholic Church) and of the reformed Church of England, then we receive the three days immediately before the Feast of the Ascension as both Rogation Days and as days of fasting and abstinence in preparation for this Festival, which crowns the other festivals of our Lord.

If we are going to have a Harvest Festival (Great Britain) or Thanksgiving Day (USA) in the Autumn/Fall then we should also have Rogationtide [supplication to God for fruitful seasons and a good harvest] in the Spring. And, if we are to prepare rightly to celebrate the Ascension of our Lord, we need to fast before the festival. So we ought to fast and pray on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The origin of these Rogation Days seems to be an order by the Bishop of Vienne about AD 470 after an earthquake that special litanies be offered for Godís care and protection, asking for provision by the God of heaven and of earth of the fruit of the earth. The custom spread through Gaul, to England and to Rome. In England the custom was required by Canon 16 of the Council of Clovesho in 747.

It was continued through the Reformation in England so that we find Queen Elizabeth in 1559 by Royal Injunction requiring the restoration of a perambulation of the parish boundaries/fields to pray for a good harvest; and there appeared in the official [Second] Book of Homilies (1562) ìAn Homily for the Days of Rogation Weekî, divided into three parts for the 3 days of Rogation Week. And it is followed by ìAn exhortation to be spoken to such parishes where they use their perambulation in Rogation Week for the oversight and limits of their town.î This was written by Archbishop Parker. When there was no walking around the boundaries of the parish, the Litany (from the BCP) was sung in church.

A serious proposal made by Bishop Cosin of Durham in 1661 to put a Collect, Epistle [James 5:13-18] & Gospel [Luke 11:1-10] for Rogation in the new edition of the BCP, that of 1662, was not followed through. However, the Collect he wrote provides an insight into how this period of intercession and abstinence was viewed by the faithful then:

ìAlmighty God, Lord of heaven and earth, in whom we live, move and have our being, who does good unto all men, making thy sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sending rain on the just and the unjust; favourably behold us thy people, who do call upon thy name, and send us thy blessing from heaven, in giving us fruitful seasons, and filling our hearts with food and gladness; that both our hearts and mouths may be continually filled with thy praises, giving thanks to thee in thy holy Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.î

In the 1928 BCP of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA, provision of a Collect (based upon Cosinís), Epistle [ Ezekiel 34:25ff.] and Gospel [Luke 11:5ff.] is provided for the Rogation Days. There are also two Collects ìFor Fruitful Seasons,î provided to be used on Rogation Sunday and the Rogation Days, in the section of this Prayer Book called ìPrayers and Thanksgivingsî.

Let us be fully aware that the members of the Church militant on earth need to be fed both by the fruit of the earth [thus the need for supplication in Rogation and thanksgiving at Harvest] and by the gifts, graces, virtues and characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ, who ascends into heaven to be our exalted Prophet, Priest and King. The week containing Holy Thursday and the three Rogation Days is thus very important within the Christian Year and for Christian fruitfulness.

 

Epistle St James 1.22-27

BE ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass. For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

 

Gospel St John 16: 23-33

VERILY, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs: but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you; For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.