Rogation (Fifth Easter) Tuesday May 19
The Tuesday following the Fifth Sunday after Easter was traditionally one of three Rogation Days devoted to repentance from sin, thanksgiving in the light of the goodness of God, and prayer for continued divine blessing on human endeavors. Today, then, is a good day to ask how the founding Anglican formularies describe and explain repentance. To answer that question, let’s look again at the “Homily for Rogation Week.”
If after our fall we repent, it is by him that we repent, which reacheth forth his merciful hand to raise us up. If any will we have to rise, it is he that preventeth our will, and disposeth us thereto. If after contrition we feel our conscience at peace with God through remission of our sin, and so be reconciled again to his favor, and hope to be his children and inheritors of everlasting life: who worketh these great miracles in vs? Our worthiness, our deservings and endeavors, our wits, and virtue? Nay verily: Saint Paul… saith, “All is of God who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
What clearer articulation could there be that our inner transformation is God’s handiwork!
In the light of this official commitment to Phil. 2:13, let’s now turn to the Book of Common Prayer. Repentance begins with daily admitting to God the full range of our sinful choices: “e acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word and deed, against thy divine Majesty”; “we have erred and strayed from thy ways, like lost sheep” ; “we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts”; “we have offended against thy holy laws”; “we left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.”
Then we acknowledge the depth of the consequences. We admit to God that we are estranged from him, because our sins have “[provoked] most justly thy wrath and indignation against us”; but we also have to face the harsh truth that we are estranged from what God created us to be. In fact, we are so far from our true selves that we have no power now in ourselves to help ourselves be anything different. We can only cry out to God that “there is no health in us.”
As the reality of our situation sinks deep within us, “the remembrance of [our sins] is grievous unto us, the burden of them is intolerable.” We are indeed “miserable offenders,” people who have been made miserable by our sins. Yet even now, his love will not let us go. Like the Good Shepherd seeking the lost sheep, he is still at work to win us from sin. So, “penitent,” we “earnestly repent,” that is, we are “heartily sorry” for both where we are now and our choices which have brought us to his point.
Because of his love wooing us, not because of anything in us, we turn to him, fully trusting him to both “pardon and deliver” us from all our sins, that is, not only to forgive us of our sinful actions but also to enable us to overcome the power of sin which still seeks to be at work in us. That’s why the minister asks that God grant us the gift of “true repentance and his Holy Spirit,” in order to “confirm and strengthen [us] in all goodness.” For only by God’s renewing a right spirit in us through the gift of his Spirt at work in us can we “live a godly, righteous, and sober life,” where “those things may please him which we do at this present, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy.” In short, we ask God to give us the gift of repentance that “we may ever hereafter serve and please thee, in newness of life, to the honour and glory of thy name.”
Since it is the goodness of God, and not our own, the leads us to repentance, let’s ask for this gift by praying Cranmer’s collect.
1552 Readings and Collect appointed for the Fifth Sunday after Easter. Epistle: James 1:22-27. Gospel: John 16:23-33. Lord, from whom all good things do come; grant 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 Lorde Jesus Christ. Amen.