Richard Lischer’s Open Secrets: Part VII, On the Church Calendar

‘The Protestant church was already in the process of discarding the named Sundays of Lent and Easter even as we blessed and planted the seeds. Now they bear the evocative names “The First Sunday in Lent,” “the Second Sunday in Lent,” and so on. The fourth Sunday in Lent was once named Laetare, which means “rejoice.” It was known in the church as Refreshment Sunday. On this Sunday rose paraments replaced the traditional purple of Lent, and, psychologically and spiritually, we breathed a little easier. The color rose seemed to say, There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Even at the dead center of Lent, Christ is risen.

The Protestant church got rid of Laetare as well as Rogate and many of the other days for reasons I have never fully understood. It created a bland church calendar and liturgies du jour in the image of people who have been abstracted from place and history, who have no feel for the symbols and no memory of the stories. They live, work, and worship in climate-controlled buildings. They have largely adopted a digitalized language. Their daily routines override the natural rhythms and longings of life.

I can only say that the Latin words were not too much for my high school dropouts. The simple outline of church history didn’t overtax their imaginations. The liturgy and church year made sense to the farmers in New Cana, for who better than a farmer understands the circularities of life? The church year had a rhythm, and so did their lives.

Some would argue that the observance of Rogate arose in an agricultural world and is, therefore, irrelevant to all but the 1.7 percent of Americans who still live on farms. But my congregation understood the metaphor that underlay Rogate, which is this: When we do any kind of useful work, we join the act of creation in progress and help God keep the universe humming’. – Richard Lischer, Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery, 144–5.

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