Parsing the Collect
A weekly worship aid from the Interim Rector
Sixth Sunday of Easter (aka, “Rogation Sunday,” and “Easter 6,” but NOT “the Sixth Sunday AFTER Easter”)
This collect, which has gone through several translation edits over the many years, is one of the oldest of the collects the Western church has kept and used. Eventually in England, even before the first “Anglican” Book of Common Prayer (BCP), it was moved to the 6th Sunday after Trinity. With some of the original phrases returned to the collect, it was moved to the 6th Sunday of Easter in the 1979 BCP.
Another aspect that can cause a little confusion for this particular Sunday is the reference to it being Rogation Sunday. Rogation Sunday has the inference of agricultural blessings. The collect for Easter 6 does not make such references. Rather than pour into our fields, it is about pouring into our hearts; it is quite a stretch to use this Easter 6 collect for Rogation prayers. So a little explanation here might assist understanding.
In 467, several earthquakes hit in and around the city of Vienne, France. The bishop of Vienne, Mamertus, initiated processionals of prayer and petition around and through the city, which was the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Day at that time. This practice of “rogation days” spread from there. There is much more to the evolution of the tradition, but suffice it to say that the Sunday before those days became the day of focus rather than the days themselves. The English seemed to keep more of the practice of processions (but now a focus on agricultural blessings perhaps to offer preventative prayers against disaster) than the rest of the Church, and we have kept some sense of it in the Church Calendar. The prayers for agricultural blessing, though, never took the place of whatever prayer was being used for (what used to be called) the 5th Sunday after Easter, which is the Sunday before Ascension Day. There are a few prayers in the BCP section of Prayers and Thanksgivings that have such a focus and petition for agriculture. It is always a helpful part of the Church’s ministry in especially rural, agrarian, and agricultural based economies to offer to gather farmers, ranchers, dairy operators, etc., and go to where the fruit of the land is and offer blessings.
Otherwise, we are still in the season of Easter, and this collect is appropriately before us. Here’s the Collect for The Sixth Sunday of Easter:
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Although 1 Corinthians 2:9 is not used on this Sunday on any of the 3 years in the lectionary, it is clearly the inspiration for this collect from its beginning:
However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
It should be noted that in the address to God, who has done more for “those who love you,” more than our understanding allows, the word “love” from the Latin is different from the word “love” in the petition: “pour into our hearts such love.” Our sense of love toward God is so much less than the kind of “love” and agape love that God has for us in His very nature. It shows again in the petition with ANOTHER reference to love, which has to do with being “diligent,” that is, an act of our will; that is, whether we “feel” such or not, it is a decision on our part to love God, to show honor, respect, devotion, and obedience. Clearly, we need help to do that! So we have our Savior Jesus Christ who has died on the cross, and our Lord Jesus who is risen from the dead, preparing and effecting the way we have for that which we could not do on our own, for ourselves. Thanks be to God that he hears our prayer for His assistance, and for our willingness to continue to believe and follow. Alleluia! May our petition be granted.