Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIFTH (ROGATION) SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1938.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week are Rogation Days, days of solemn supplication for fruitful seasons. Special prayers are prescribed for use on each of these days, and the Sunday preceding. The Church pauses to pray for a blessing upon the earth for our temporal necessities, before Ascension Day, when, having offered the Easter prayers, devotions are concentrated upon the Ascension of the Risen Lord into Heaven.
On Ascension Day the Church will resume prayers for our spiritual necessities, that we may in heart and mind thither ascend, and with Him, continually dwell. There is a very tender note in this pause. It is true to history also. The last thing Our Lord did before He was carried up into heaven was to lift up His hands and bless His disciples and the world.
On the Rogation Days the Church prays for the continuance of His blessing and that it may rest upon the face of the earth that the land may give increase for our physical sustenance. Our Lord was and is always mindful of our bodily needs. His Church never forgets that we are human. The Sacraments of the Church minister to our bodies as well as to our souls.
We know that Our Lord is our High Priest in heaven, who ever liveth to make intercession for us. There is need of remembrance that Our Lord ever liveth to make intercession for us on earth in His Church. The activities of the Church are many and her calls to serve are imperative. But whatever the activities are, the supreme work of the Church is to voice on earth the intercessions of the Head of the Church in heaven. His will for intercession must be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The Church, His house on earth, is the house of prayer. To those who are called to the ministry of the Church God gives diversities of gifts. There are differences of administrations, and diversities of operations. All these God divides to every man severally as He wills. Upon all alike and all together God lays the responsibility of the ministry of prayer. This ministry is a corporate ministry, because it is the ministry of the Church.
The Ministers in Christ's Church, whether they be Bishops, Priests or Deacons, are bound to exercise this ministry within the powers of their Order. They are bound to be diligent in their private prayers. Their private prayers are their preparation for the public office as intercessors in the corporate prayer life of the Church. In this they are functioning, not as individuals, but as representatives of the Church.
As representatives of the Church they are responsible for the regular maintenance of the Church's prayers, as the Church orders and sets forth. As intercessors for the people they are bound to provide for the people constant opportunity to avail themselves of the benefit and comfort of the Church's life of intercession.
The rule of public prayer is clearly prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer. The letter of the law may be questioned, but the spirit is beyond question. It cannot fail to be evident. "The Collect, Epistle and Gospel, appointed for the Sunday, shall serve all the week after, where it is not in this Book otherwise ordered."
What meaning can this rubric convey other than that it is the mind of the Church to provide for the continual and daily remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ?
The Order for Daily, Morning and Evening Prayer indicates by the use of the word daily, that it is the mind of the Church to provide for the daily recitation of these Offices, in such place and manner as will make the recitation public, that is accessible to the people.
It is not required that the people attend on days which are not days of obligation. But the people are entitled to be able to rest assured that the Church prays for them without ceasing. They may always entrust names and needs to be remembered at the Altar, and they may be sure that their petitions will be daily presented to the Great High Priest.
Affectionately in Our Lord,