This week we observe Rogation Sunday, which is always the Sunday before the Feast of the Ascension (which is this Thursday, May 13th this year). Rogation comes from Rogare which is the Latin verb “to ask.” Rogation is a time to ask for God’s blessing on agriculture and the resources of creation. It recognizes these resources as gifts from God upon which all humans rely for life. This aspect of Rogation days has often been marked, especially in Anglicanism, by a special form of procession called “beating the bounds of the parish” in which the parish congregation led by the priest would encircle the boundaries of the parish (usually a defined neighborhood or village), stopping at points to read Scripture and pray. Especially In rural areas, an important part of these processions was to visit and bless farmlands and agricultural operations. This formed a Spring bookend to traditions of Autumn harvest blessings and of offering a portion of the fruits of our labor to God in thanksgiving for God’s blessings. For the last several years (except last year), our version of the Rogation Day celebration has included a procession to Wynnewood Valley Park next door, where we’ve read Scripture and offered prayers and blessings over God’s good creation that is represented there. That’s what we will do this Sunday at the end of our service.
Rogation-tide has also been a time to ask God for protection from calamities, including the ending of plagues and protection from natural disasters. Scholars trace the beginning of Rogation day to a bishop named Mamertus who lived in 5th century France and held a invented the Rogation days and their processions around the town as a form of prayer to ask God’s protection during a looming disaster (he also probably wrote the earliest version of the Great Litany for the same purpose). The exact nature of the disaster, interestingly, is contested. Some contemporary sources say it was a volcano threatening to erupt, others that it was a series of calamitous earthquakes. One source claims it was an on-going attack on the city of Vienne by a demonic pack of wolves. Whatever the case, the Rogation procession as a petition for God’s protection has long been a tool in the Church’s toolbox of prayer. I hope that you will join us this Sunday as we celebrate Rogation. Our procession will even include singing a song outside as a congregation (according to diocesan guidelines we will all need to wear masks and be spaced out appropriately in order to do so). Even if you aren’t comfortable gathering indoors during this pandemic, perhaps you will join us around 10:45 outside? There is also a way that you can participate in this Rogation Sunday at home. Below is a short Rogation Garden Devotion, which you can pray by yourself or with your family.
Rogation Sunday Garden Devotions
Leader Blessed be the God of all Creation
Others (if present) The Lord, our God, makes all things new
A reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
Thanks be to God.
Let us pray
Gracious God, along with all your creation we wait with eager longing. Help us to be revealed as your children. Let us fulfill our small part in the great work of reconciling all things to you. Let this garden be a sign of that day when creation is freed from its bondage to decay. Bring order, growth, and tranquility to this place. Send your blessing on this garden, on all the plants in my [our] care, and in all the creatures who visit and whose lives are sustained here as I am [we are] sustained here. This we pray in the name of the Resurrected Lord, whom Mary Magdalene recognized as a gardener on Easter morning, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.