All Things Have Been Placed Under Jesus’ Feet
Forty days ago, the darkness of Lent was dispelled by the light of Easter. For forty days, the Church has cried, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” But forty days after Jesus rose from the dead, he departed from his disciples and was enthroned in glory in heaven. From heaven he rules all things as our Lord and King. Today we celebrate the day he ascended (“went up”) to glory. But he promised not to leave his disciples alone. He promised to send them the Holy Spirit. They waited ten more days, and then on the Festival of Pentecost (“fiftieth day”) they saw Jesus’ promise made good. Ten days from today, we will celebrate that 50th day, the day of Pentecost.
The Father Answers Our Prayers Because of Jesus
Rogate comes from the Latin rogare which means, “to ask,” a reference to the strong theme of prayer in the Propers (Collect, Lessons, Hymns) for today. In ancient practice, the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday prior to the Ascension of Our Lord were known as Rogation Days. These days of early summer were times of special prayer for the protection of the crops. The Major Rogation was on April 25, also the Feast of St. Mark. The Introit for Rogate, “Declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it out to the end of the earth;…” is from Isaiah 48:20, a joyful proclamation of the freedom of Israel from the Babylonian captivity, and of God’s gracious deliverance of His people. The Gospel for Rogate, like those for the preceding Sundays--Cantate and Jubilate—all point to the Ascension, and hence point the eyes of the faithful to our risen Lord’s eternal reign in heaven.
To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray as one who has been baptized. For it is in the water that He put His name upon you, claiming you as His own, making you a son of God with access to the Father. By His incarnation and crucifixion, our Lord Jesus broke through the barrier of sin which separated us from God, opening a portal to the Father. Like Moses in the wilderness, Jesus is our go-between and intercessor before the throne of heaven. He was lifted up for us on the cross that we might be saved and restored to fellowship with the Father. Looking into this perfect teaching of liberty we pray with boldness and confidence as dear children of God.
Jesus Promises to Send His Holy Spirit, the Helper
Cantate means “sing.” This is the first word of Psalm 98, appointed for this day. Psalm 98 is a joyous psalm that ascribes glory and praise to God for His great redemptive work—giving His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the world, and then to rise to new life on the first Easter morning. Christ is the Right Hand and Holy Arm of God, God in the flesh. Christ is the Righteousness revealed to the nations. Christ is our salvation, “the salvation of our God.” By God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we, like all Christians of all time, are saved. Those who follow the propers carefully will note that the Gospel readings appointed for Jubilate (last week), Cantate (this week), and Rogate (next week) are all from the sixteenth chapter of St. John.
Today we get to sing to the Lord the “new song” born from the marvelous things and the salvation Our Lord openly shows (Psalm of the Day). This salvation is the Holy Spirit who is the “good and perfect gift from above” (Second Lesson). The Spirit’s salvation is to guide us into all truth (Gospel). And by the Spirit we pray the Father that we may “love what you command and desire what you promise” (Collect).
Those Who Wait on the Lord Shall Rejoice
Jubilate means “Make a joyful shout,” from the first verse of Psalm 66. This Psalm expresses the joy and thanksgiving that are the response of faith to God’s creative and redemptive acts. This joyful Psalm attributes praise and glory to God alone, for it is He that “turned sea into dry land” to deliver His people form bondage through the Red Sea, and it is He that keeps our soul among the living,” delivering His people from bondage to sin and death by the waters of Holy Baptism. He alone is worthy of our worship and prayers. “But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!”
The people of God are pilgrims and sojourners in this world, looking ahead to a destination yet to come. We are those who wait on the Lord. But, Jesus tells us that the wait is just a little while. Though you must experience sorrow for a time, though you must live as strangers in a world that is at enmity with Christ, yet your sorrow will be turned to joy when He returns. The little while of weeping shall be replaced with an eternity of rejoicing in the presence of Christ the crucified and risen Savior.
The Good Shepherd Cares for His Sheep
Our Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11–16). He is not like the hireling, who cares nothing for the sheep and only for himself, who flees when he sees the wolf coming. Rather, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who seeks out His scattered sheep to deliver them (Ezek. 34:11–16). He gathers them and feeds them in rich pasture. He binds up the broken and strengthens the sick. He lays down His life for wandering and wayward sheep. On the cross, Christ bore in His body the attacks of the predators of sin and death and the devil for you that you might be saved. He now lives to restore your soul in the still waters of baptism, to lead you in the paths of righteousness by the voice of His Gospel, to prepare the table of His holy supper before you, that you may dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23). “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).
Misericordia Domini means “the goodness of the Lord.” These are words that end the Historic Introit (meaning, “entrance;” a Psalm or verse sung as the pastor entered the church) for the day, Psalm 33:5. In Latin, verse 5 ends “misericordia Domini plena est terra”—“the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” Psalm 33 proclaims the joy and awe of the Christian at the miraculous grandeur of the creative and redemptive acts of Our Lord. Misericordia Domini is frequently called “Good Shepherd Sunday” because the Gospel reading is John 10:11-16, where our Lord identifies Himself as our Good Shepherd. St. Gregory the Great once said, ““The Good Shepherd has laid down his life for his sheep in order to change his body and blood into a sacrament for us, and to satisfy the sheep he had redeemed with his own body as food.” Christ as our Shepherd is also the theme of the Old Testament (Ezekiel 34.11 -16) and the Epistle (1 Peter 2.21-25).
The Wounds of Christ Give Us Life
Quasimodo Geniti is the Latin name for today, which means, “like newborn babes.” [It’s actually three words in Latin: Quasi modo geniti]. These words of 1 Peter 2:2 begin the Introit for the First Sunday after Easter: “Like newborn babies, crave the pure milk of the Word so that by it you may grow up with the result being salvation.” Historically, those preparing for baptism and confirmation would attend and observe the Easter Vigil, during which they would be baptized and received into the Holy Christian Church after dark on Holy Saturday. These new Christians would continue in their instruction “as newborn babes” in the faith. It is the Word of God through the preached Word and the Sacraments that sustain the Christian. Would that we all might become as “little children” (Mt. 18:3), with child-like faith believing the Word, and, as newborn babies, “crave the pure milk of the Word,” that we too may “grow up,” and thus be prepared for the “meat”—the deeper truths of the faith and the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 3:2, 4:1; Heb. 5:12-14).
In the beginning God created all things through His Word, His Son. But man fell into sin, and with man all creation was cursed. Therefore, God spoke His Word again, this time into the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary. The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle of our human nature (Ex. 40:17–21, 34–38, First Lesson). “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1–14, Holy Gospel). The Son of God took on our flesh and blood and died on the cross in order that we might receive the right to become the children of God through faith. Baptized into Christ’s body, we are made partakers of a new Genesis, “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4–7, Second Lesson). In Christ, the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man has truly appeared.
John the Baptizer Points Everyone to the Messiah
The coming of God in all His unveiled power at Mount Sinai was terrifying to the people of Israel. The thundering voice of the Lord puts sinners in fear of death (Deut. 18:15–19, First Lesson). God, therefore, raised up a prophet like Moses—the Messiah, the Christ. God came to His people veiled in human flesh. The skies poured down the Righteous One from heaven; the earth opened her womb and brought forth Salvation (Introit) through the blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of the Lord. The fruit of her womb is the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the One whose sandal strap John was not worthy to loose (John 1:19–28, Holy Gospel). In Jesus we are delivered from fear and anxiety. In Him alone we have the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:4–7, Second Lesson).
The voice of the Baptizer cried out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord…” (Isa. 40:1). John called the people to be made ready for the Messiah’s coming through repentance, for “all flesh is grass” (Isa. 40:6). Now He asks from prison, “Are you the one who is to come…?” (Matt. 11:2). Jesus’ works bear witness that He is. The sick are made well; the dead are raised, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. Their iniquity is pardoned; they have received from the Lord’s hand double forgiveness for all their sins. The “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1) still deliver Christ’s overflowing forgiveness to the poor in spirit, comforting God’s people with the word of the Gospel which stands forever. This Gospel produces rejoicing among all those who believe.
The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as Gaudete, which is the first Latin word of the Historic Introit assigned to this Sunday from Philippians 4. Gaudete means “rejoice” (Gaudete in Domino semper = “Rejoice in the Lord always”). In some parishes, including our own, a rose-colored candle is used in place of another blue or purple candle. This lighter tone is meant to “soften” the tone of repentance and preparation within the Advent season with a message of joy and expectation.
The day on which our Lord returns will be a “great and awesome day” (Mal. 4:5, First Lesson). For He will come in a cloud with great power and glory. To the wicked and the proud, it will be a Day of judgment that will “set them ablaze” (Mal. 4:1). The signs preceding this Day will bring them fear and fainting. But to those who believe, who fear the name of the Lord, this Day is one to look forward to and rejoice in: “. . . straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28, Gospel Lesson). Christ our Redeemer is coming; the Sun of Righteousness will bring healing in His wings. Let us, then, give attention to the words of the Lord, which do not pass away. Let us “through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures” (Rom. 15:4, Second Lesson) be strengthened in our hope by the Holy Spirit and watch diligently for Jesus’ coming. Then, by God’s grace, we shall escape all these things that will come to pass and stand before the Son of Man.
The Second Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as Populus Zion, which are the first Latin words of the Historic Introit assigned to this Sunday. Populus Zion means “People of Zion” (Populus Zion, ecce Dominus veniet ad salvandas gentes = “People of Zion, behold the Lord shall come to save the nations”).