Readers may recall that, during the Rogation processions, 'stations' were made at crosses. My own suspicion is that the stone crosses which stand along the paths leading to churches, especially in the Penwith peninsular at the very end ... the loveliest part ... of Cornwall, were where such stations were made. And (even before the endowed drinking started) passages from the Holy Gospels were read.
Because there are North and South and East and West, four points on the compass, and there are four canonical Gospels, the readings were arranged accordingly. The Annunciation Gospel (Luke 1:26-38) ... the Epiphany Gospel (Matthew 2:1-12) ... the Ascension Gospel (Mark 16:14-20) ... the Christmas Day Gospel (John 1:1-14).
Rumour has it that, in the Usus Deterior, the people are only allowed to hear S Mark's Ascension Gospel once every three years ... I couldn't possibly comment ... and that modern vernacular Bibles drop heavy hints that it is not 'authentic' ... I couldn't possibly comment ... (but I think W Farmer had some views on this). Certainly, as an adjunct of the Rogation processions, its daemonifugic and thaumaturgic references (verses 17-18) will have had a considerable resonance. A shame most modern worshippers are, er, protected from all this.
Acute eyes will have noticed that that all four of these Gospel Readings are Incarnational rather than Soteriological. It would be wrong to over-emphasise this fact: after all, the Devotion to the Five Wounds, which will have been heavily emphasised in the Parish and Guild banners, is radically soteriological. But emphases do bear their own messages. The practice of the the Rogations was essentially incarnational in as far as it related Divine action and benevolence to the created and material world. Medieval Christians, unlike their modern successors, would not have needed self-conscious homilies to instruct them that the Gospel is not confined to what goes on inside church buildings.
There are actions which carry their own inherent meaning. The 'Enlightenment' notion that only what is verbally understood has any status, needs to be rebutted. The most 'Novus' worshipper does not, I am sure, grimly and rigidly focus every fibre of his intelligence on every vernacular formula he hears or utters in Church. Things are internalised and made part of a holy routine. Lift up your hearts is full of meaning ... but you don't need to be Craddock Ratcliff, or to think rapidly through loads of theologoumena, every time you respond to this invitation. Liturgy is not meant to be like a kindergarten learning by rote its Three Times Table.
The Johannine Prologue has, for ceturies, been a favourite among Christians. It might be read at an Extreme Unction or a Baptism; it has been a blessing for the weather, the crops, and the fields. When Jungmann wrote just after the War, he recorded that in Salzburg and Carinthia, it was 'still' used as a daily blessing for weather. There were places where the Reading of this Gospel was associated with the Blessing of the pain benit, distributed after Mass.
And so we are fortunate enough to have this sanctifying lection at the end of nearly every Mass in the Usus Authenticus!
Objectively, irrespective of any enlightenment, the words of this august Reading have their own logic and meaning; subjectively, it establishes the individual and her community in the diachronic and synchronic unities which structure our existence in this world.