Rogation and Ascension

Source: Rogation and Ascension

A wonderfully complete and informative treatment of Rogationtide, and the upcoming feast of the Ascension, from the excellent Anglican-focused blog, “Full Homely Divinity.” Especially noteworthy: helpful suggestions and recommendations for the liturgical celebration of this Feast, including the Rogation Procession.

Some of the historical notes are interesting, too, such as this:

“The route of the walk was around the boundaries of the parish, which was a civil as well as a religious unit. Thus, the processions were useful in teaching people, particularly the young, their parish boundaries. Known as ‘beating the bounds,’ the processions customarily stopped at boundary marks and other significant landmarks of the parish, such as a venerable tree, or a great rock, or perhaps a pond.

“The priest would read the Gospel and perhaps affix a cross to the landmark. Then the boys of the parish would suffer some indignity intended to help them remember the spot. Boys were bumped about against rocks and trees, thrown into the water, held upside-down over fences, thrown into bramble patches, or beaten with willow wands – and then given a treat in compensation. In later times, the marchers beat the boundary marker with the willow wands, beating the bounds, rather than the boys.”

I suspect the village lads may have appreciated the change! But whether they remembered the boundaries as well is open to question…

Wishing all a happy, holy, and blessed Rogation Sunday, and Rogationtide!

Rogation-Sunday
Circa 1950: The vicar and Sunday school children go out into the fields to bless the crops. The little boy is carrying a symbolic tree of plenty.

So, what are Rogation Days, and what is Rogation Sunday?

Here’s one account:

Traditionally, these are the three days before Ascension Day on which the litany is sung (or recited) in procession as an act of intercession. They originated in Vienne, France, in the fifth century when Bishop Mamertus introduced days of fasting and prayer to ward off a threatened disaster. In England they were associated with the blessing of the fields at planting. The vicar “beat the bounds” of the parish, processing around the fields reciting psalms and the litany. In the United States they have been associated with rural life and with agriculture and fishing.”

The 1979 Prayer Book “widened their scope to include commerce and industry and the stewardship of creation,” which I personally believe is an appropriate and salutary expansion of the tradition.

And here’s another:

“Rogation” means “asking,” which is a theme particularly prominent in the Gospel text for this Sunday (St. John 16:23-33). We call this Sunday “Rogation Sunday” because the 3 days which follow it are ancient Rogation Days, these being the 3 days leading up to the great Feast of the Ascension of our Lord (a much neglected holy day!)… Rogation Days are days of prayerful supplication before God. In the agrarian culture of yesterday, it was common for the church to gather on the Rogation Days to ask God to bless the crops being sown. We would have asked Him to send rain and to bless us with a good harvest later in the year. Often the prayers would have been said (or sung) as the church processed around the boundary lines of the parish. It is from the Rogation Day prayers (as found in the Sarum Sacramentary) that Archbishop Cranmer formulated the Litany (1545), which was his first work of liturgical reform.

So to sum up: Rogation Sunday, and the three traditional Rogation Days which follow, leading up to the Ascension, are days of supplication and prayer for God’s blessing and protection upon us in the year ahead, with a special focus on the fruits of agriculture, on which we all rely for our survival. To my mind, it has always provided a suitable opportunity, within the Calendar of the Church, to turn our grateful attention to God’s tremendous gift to us of this good Earth, our physical home and the material source and sustainer of our continued existence, to express our thanks to God for this great gift, and to pray for its continued well-being, and ours.

May God grant us a blessed Rogationtide!

Happy Mother’s Day (U.S.)!

Happy Mothers Day - Facebook profile pic.png

Wishing any and all mothers who may be reading this a truly happy and blessed Mother’s Day!

And at the same time, remembering with deep love and appreciation my own dear mother, who went to be with her Lord and ours in February of 2007 – ten years ago this year. I still think of her and miss her, every single day.

Ma 1975
   Jean Elizabeth “Betty” (Reamer) Harbold, c. 1975 – my beloved “Ma” (1927-2007)

If your mother is still alive, tell her how much you love her, how much she means to you! Because you never know how much longer, or shorter, will be the time you can spend together. And if your relationship with your mother is not all it could or should be, then please, if it is possible, do what you can to repair it.

Again, we don’t know how much time we have, and – unless she is a truly vile person, which is blessedly rare – I know of no one who thinks, looking back on their life, “Gee, I wish I hadn’t spent so much time with my mother…”

Again, Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers! And thank you for the work you put in to your families. May God bless and keep you!

Easter and Paganism, by John Morgan – Our Celtic Traditions

An excellent post by my friend John Morgan, on the subject of Easter, its origins, calculations, etc.

One still gets those who say that it is borrowed from Paganism, and while it seems reasonably certain that the English / Germanic name for this holiday was adopted via a month-name (“Ēastermōnaþ” and variations on the linguistic theme) from Eostre (reconstructed OHG *Ostara), a purported goddess who – interestingly enough – is attested only in the works of St. Bede the Venerable, the Anglo-Saxon Christian proto-historian (!), and while there has clearly been some borrowing / adoption / adaption of existing European folk traditions as Christianity moved out of its original Mediterranean context and into Western and Northern Europe, associating Easter with goddesses like Ishtar and Astarte is… well, let’s just be gentle, and say it’s a stretch. 🙂

Historically, as John points out, the dating of Easter is based on the dating of the Jewish feast of Passover; the only parallel with European Paganism is that both had Spring feasts in the vicinity of the Vernal Equinox, and/or the Full Moon nearest to it. There is nothing surprising about such parallels, and it doesn’t imply a connection, other than a basic human one.

Similarly, for the early Christian evangelists of Anglo-Saxon England to find parallels between a month dedicated to the dawn, rising sun, increasing light, etc., and Jesus, who was known as the Day-Star, compared to the Dayspring (dawn), hailed as the Sun of Righteousness, and called by the Gospel-writer St. John the “light [which] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” is hardly surprising!

Theologically, of course, there are considerable differences between the Christian message and the Pagan myths which preceded it. Christians – myself included – would point out that these were prefigurings, foreshadowings, of the “true myth” (C.S. Lewis) which is Christianity; the “dying god” of Paganism being a shadow of the form (to put it in Platonic terms) which was embodied and given geographical and historical, and of course human, context in Jesus of Nazareth: the Incarnate Word of God. For more on this, see my reflections on “Christianity in an Age of Unbelief,” posted earlier.

At any rate, click the link, read the post. Most excellent!

The Feast of the Resurrection: The Paschal Sermon of St. John Chrysostom

The Catechetical Sermon of St. John Chrysostom is read during Matins of Pascha:

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of of his Lord…

Source: The Paschal Sermon – Orthodox Church in America

The Paschal Sermon of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop, Metropolitan, and Patriarch of Constantinople (434–446) and one of the great Fathers of the Church, is traditionally read on the Feast of the Resurrection (Pascha, or Easter) in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches. It is often read in Anglican and other churches of the liturgical / sacramental tradition.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Wishing everyone a very Happy Easter, and a holy, blessed, and joyful Eastertide.

The Angelus – YouTube

The Angelus – traditional salutation to Mary, in honor of the Incarnation of her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, recited or sung at morning, noon, and evening – as chanted by the Daughters of Mary: in honor of the Feast of the Annunciation.

The full text of the Angelus, in both Latin and (traditional / liturgical) English, together with some background history, is found here.