Today I cut three large pink roses from our bush in our backyard, wrapped them in a wet cloth, and brought them to church. I filled a glass vase with water and shoved the green stems into the clear liquid, then placed the vase with its fragrant bouquet on the white linen spread on the altar in the Children’s Chapel. Today is Rogation Sunday, and this was my small offering of thanksgiving for all of creation.
They say God’s timing is perfect, and with each passing year, I believe this to be true within the boundaries of free will, although I know I can see only dimly, hear the passing notes of minutes and days, catch the lingering tune before it fades.
I pray through the Church Year, that great drama of God’s time and timing re-enacted again and again. And as it is re-told, as this mysterious story of life and death and resurrection is relived, it is re-enacted in my life too. It is re-enacted in all of our lives, if we can but see, if we can but hear the melody.
I have long loved the sacramental way, the acting out of this story of redemption – the waiting of Advent, the incarnation of God as a baby at Christmas, the Epiphany of joy bursting upon the world. Then the penitence of Lent, the Way of the Cross, the first Eucharist at the last supper, the Crucifixion of the Son of God, the silence of Holy Saturday, the new light of the flaming candles that evening, the flowered cross on Easter morning. The time of Christ walking the earth, appearing to many so that we could believe he lived, he truly rose from the dead. His Ascension into heaven. Then Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit to comfort, strengthen, inspire. As the Body of Christ, we live these things, we do them, we re-act them. We write these moments upon our hearts.
Last summer I prayed for some additions to our church nursery, for the room had grown too quiet. I prayed that God would send us more babies. By All Saints we had two, a girl and a boy, age 9 months. By Christmas we learned another girl was on the way, growing in the womb. By Easter we learned a fourth child, a girl, would be born in early Advent of this year. I look back upon these prayers, this year, and I wonder, amazed, as I watch these marvels unfold.
On Rogation Sunday we celebrate the new life of all creation. Eastertide is closing and we look now to Ascension. It is fitting to celebrate new life today, and I wondered how this Sunday would weave these things together, engraft them upon my heart. We are told that the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel assigned for a certain Sunday in the Book of Common Prayer are meant to dovetail, to point to the day’s moment of re-living in the Church Year.
The Collect, the opening prayer assigned for today, asks that we may “think those things that are good, and… may perform the same…”
The Epistle tells us to be doers of the word and not just hearers, to “look into the perfect law of liberty.” Liberty comes with its law, what we are to do, to perform that which is good, the answer perhaps to the Collect.
In today’s Gospel, Christ says that we may ask for anything in his name and we will receive it. Such an asking, I believe, is most pleasing to God if it is for the health of his Body, the Church, if it is a prayer for others, not oneself. If it involves babies in the parish nursery.
And so, as I contemplated these three passages of Scripture this Rogation Sunday, it all came together. The new life I asked for last August wove into Christ’s Body the Church, as these children and their families were welcomed by our parish through the seasons of Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter. These were good prayers, and today, Rogation/Creation Sunday, the nursery was indeed full of new life. Natalie and Alex, now happy toddlers, chased their toys around the room. Our mother-to-be is due to give birth any minute. The classroom next door was packed with primaries and juniors listening and asking and even, as I recall, sampling lentil soup.
I look forward to Ascension and its tide, that season that shall wash upon the beaches of my soul. We shall watch as Christ ascends to the Father, knowing we shall one day follow, having seen, known, and done the perfect law of liberty.