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!

The Official Catholic Beer Blessing | The Catholic Gentleman (slightly modified…)

Source: The Official Catholic Beer Blessing | The Catholic Gentleman

Now, who – Roman Catholic or otherwise – can help liking this…?

One of the great things about being Catholic is that the Church has quite literally thought of everything at some point or another. Some inventive cleric even thought to include a beer blessing in the Rituale Romanum… Creation is good. Beer is good. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

And one of the great things about being Anglican is that one can reasonably “borrow” things from both “sides” – Roman Catholic and Reformed (not to mention Eastern Orthodox, just ask the Scots Non-Jurors who ordained Samuel Seabury and provided the American Church with the model for our classic Prayer of Consecration) – so long as they do not conflict with the Book of Common Prayer and the XXXIX Articles!

Here is a version of the beer blessing slightly modified to suit Anglican sensibilities, and to turn it into a prayer that can be said by lay-persons:

V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who madest both heaven and earth.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.

O Lord our God, who dost cause grain to spring up from the earth for our sustenance: do thou bless, we pray thee, this thy creature beer, which thou hast deigned to produce from that thy good gift of grain, fruit of the earth and product of human labour, that it may be a salutary remedy to the human race; and grant, for thy mercy’s sake, that whomsoever shall drink of it may gain both health in body and peace in soul: Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

V. Let us bless the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us and remain with us, now and always. Amen.

For the original forms, in both English and Latin, click through to the linked blog post!

Beauty Matters

Beauty Matters.png

Indeed it does.

Nor is it limited to the Roman observance, although traditionalists in the Roman Catholic Church (and more generally, the liturgical, sacramental Churches, including Eastern Orthodoxy and – when it is being true to itself – the Anglican tradition) are often acutely aware of its importance:

“The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced, and the art which has grown in her womb. Better witness is borne to the Lord by the splendor of holiness and art which have arisen in the community of believers than by the clever excuses which apologetics has come up with to justify the dark sides which, sadly, are so frequent in the Church’s human history. If the Church is to continue to transform and humanize the world, how can she dispense with beauty in her liturgies, that beauty which is so closely linked with love and with the radiance of the Resurrection? No. Christians must not be too easily satisfied. They must make their Church into a place where beauty – and hence truth – is at home. Without this the world will become the first circle of Hell.”

Pope Benedict XVI: The Ratzinger Report, p. 129

Beauty, however, is the birthright of all Christians – ours is, after all, a sacramental and incarnational faith, and therefore one which values the created order as an important source of God’s self-revelation to us. The Scriptural warrant for this goes back at least to the Psalmist:

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

Psalm 29:2, 96:9

And of course the classical Christian tradition, at least in the West, has repeatedly cited the “three Transcendentals” (Goodness, Truth, and Beauty) as not only pointing toward God, but being aspects or attributes of God – ones that we should seek to mirror and live out in our own lives:

[The] Three Transcendentals of ancient philosophy (which has so greatly shaped Christian Tradition) [are] the True, the Good and the Beautiful. To destructively compress Plato and the Neoplatonists, all truth points to the transcendent Truth; all good points to the transcendent Good; all beauty points to the transcendent Beauty; and in turn, the transcendent True, Good and Beautiful is the One, the source of all being, which classical theism identifies as God, and is in turn identified with the God of the Bible by orthodox Christianity.

In short: for Christians, “Beauty Matters.” It is not an extrinsic, superficial adornment to our lives and our liturgy; it is an intrinsic, essential element of them.

A New Direction in Church Design – Crisis Magazine

One day fifteen years ago, I happened to be channel surfing past the Eternal Word Television Network when I was greeted by a momentary flash of heavenly beauty across the screen. Quickly flipping back, I realized that it was a Mass being celebrated in an unusually majestic church with an extensively gilded and marbled interior. …

Source: A New Direction in Church Design – Crisis Magazine

As I have noted elsewhere, we are seeing the beginnings of a quiet, subtle, but unmistakable shift back toward traditional, Classical architecture in new church construction and, as this article points out, in the renovations of churches originally built in the classical tradition, but “updated” (often with little concern for either tradition or aesthetics) in the craze for the “contemporary” and for supposed “relevance” which began in the 1960s and continues, in many circles, until this day.

The pendulum is only beginning to swing back: the article notes that, “Lest delusion set in, the ratio of new traditional churches to posh amphitheater spaces still being built is grossly disproportionate.” However the shift, while still small, is real, and appears to be growing:

Nevertheless, after the epic social and liturgical upheavals of the last century, it is a wonder that any sort of traditional resurgence is happening at all, and these projects seem to be only increasing in number and scale with each passing year. Just a decade ago, attempting to write this piece would have proven difficult; twenty years ago, impossible.

This should give cause for optimism to those faithful who yearn for the vitality that flows from firm Catholic identity [in the larger sense of “Mere Christianity” or the “Great Tradition,” not limited to Roman Catholicism] and its enduring visible expression. After all, as the saying attributed to Chesterton puts it, “Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances we know to be desperate.” Such wisdom is surely not lost on the many pastors, parishes, religious communities, architects and others helping to cultivate this budding sacred renaissance in the midst of a disintegrating culture that is too often hostile to faith.

Follow the link for more details on this encouraging trend, and a number of inspiring examples of new churches that have been or are being built along traditional, Classical lines. And for any readers who wonder why this matters, I repeat my invitation to see my separate post on the relationship been architecture, theology, and liturgy.

Here I will only point out that orthodox Christianity is an incarnational, sacramental faith, and it holds an incarnational, sacramental view of the cosmos, and our place in it. It does not accept the popular but heretical gnostic devaluation of that created order which God, its Creator, called “good” and “very good,” to which our Lord Jesus Christ joined himself with indissoluble bonds in His Incarnation, and which He redeemed in His Crucifixion and Resurrection.

God expresses Himself in and through the tangible, material world, not alone in the spiritual and ethereal aspects, nor yet solely in the theoretical and intellectual realm. Therefore architecture, liturgy, and other tangible expressions of the Faith matter: they are among the ways God reveals a Himself to His people. We cannot devalue Creation without devaluing the Creator of Creation, and our human impulse to create things of beauty, majesty, dignity, and reverence in honour of our Creator is a reflection of the fact that we are made in His image.

Traditional, Classical church architecture is one important expression of this truth.

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, let all the Earth tremble before Him.” ~ Psalm 96:9

Return to Classicism in Church architecture

After too many years of utilitarian, banal, and (for many of us) off-putting modernistic trends in ecclesiastical architecture, we are seeing the beginning of a quiet, subtle, but significant shift back in the direction of traditional, Classical architecture when it comes to building churches, as exemplified in the above photo, of the interior of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, St. Thomas Aquinas College, in California (please see my separate post for more on this “new” direction in ecclesiastical architecture).

In the video below, Dennis R. McNamara explains why this is important, theologically and liturgically. It is far more than a taste, a fad, or (as he points out) a more architectural style!

“Classical architecture is fundamentally respectful of Tradition; it’s fundamentally respectful of the order of Nature as revealing the mind of God… Certain proportions are harmonic; certain ways of bringing things together are ordered and perfected and radiant, and they ring true to the eye [just as certain musical structures and harmonies ring true to the ear]. So Classicism is basically [a way of creating] architecture that is about the noblest and highest achievements humanity can [attain]. What is the most poetic, most harmonious, most ordered way to do architecture? How can it restore order to the world? So, Classicism is not a style – primarily, although there are stylistic components to it. It is a way of imitating the mind of God in architecture.” — Dennis R. McNamara, “Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy”

— Dennis R. McNamara, “Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy”

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.