The Rogation Days are here! Today, tomorrow, and Wednesday are the three “purple days” at the turning point of the season from Easter to the Ascension. As the liturgical color implies, these are days of fasting and prayer. They’re not penitential, as such – certainly not in the way that Lent or even Advent is – but they are days of particular supplication to the Lord of the harvest for our safety and the safety of our land. If you want to see last year’s introduction to the Rogation Days, click here.
The question I want to focus on today is how you might observe the Rogation Days at home. Most of us still have closed churches, after all, so there wasn’t much we were able to do to mark yesterday (Rogation Sunday) as particularly special. Here are few traditional ideas and resources to draw upon.
The most obvious thing we’ve got is the set of Collects for the Rogation Days, on page 635 of the 2019 Book of Common Prayer. In addition to praying them in the Daily Office on these three days, consider using them in family devotions, private prayers, before a meal, or in the context of a small group for prayer or worship or study. You can read more about those Collects in this post from last year.
Similarly, you can sing the hymn O Jesus, crowned with all reknown, a classic song for the Rogation days, and the only one labeled as such in the 1940 hymnal. To that, the 2017 hymnal adds O God of Bethel, by whose hand and the 1940 recommends also We plow the seeds, and scatter.
Another resource that should not be overlooked is the Great Litany. Rogation Sunday was one of the major days of the year in English tradition for a grant procession out of the church building, with prayer and supplication, and the Litany was the primary tool for such a public devotion. It would be a marvelous thing to make use of the Litany on your own through these three days – the most traditional time to pray it would be at the end of Morning Prayer, but the tradition has evolved over the past near-century such that you should feel free to pray the Litany in any context, even on its own!
You could even combine the Litany with a version of the historical tradition of Beating the Bounds. On Rogation Sunday the grand procession would encircle the entire parish, literally surrounding the village in prayer. As the great Anglican divine, George Herbert, described it:
The Country Parson is a Lover of old Customs, if they be good, and harmless; and the rather, because Country people are much addicted to them, so that to favour them therein is to win their hearts, and to oppose them therein is to deject them. If there be any ill in the custom, that may be severed from the good, he pares the apple, and gives them the clean to feed on. Particularly, he loves Procession, and maintains it, because there are contained therein 4 manifest advantages.
- First, a blessing of God for the fruits of the field:
- Secondly, justice in the Preservation of bounds:
- Thirdly, Charity in loving walking, and neighbourly accompanying one another, with reconciling of differences at that time, if there be any:
- Fourthly, Mercy in relieving the poor by a liberal distribution and largesse, which at that time is, or ought to be used.
Wherefore he exacts of all to be present at the perambulation, and those that withdraw, and sever themselves from it, he mislikes, and reproves as uncharitable, and unneighbourly; and if they will not reform, presents them. Nay, he is so far from condemning such assemblies, that he rather procures them to be often, as knowing that absence breeds strangeness, but presence love.
George Herbert, A Priest to the Temple Or The Countrey Parson, chapter 35
What you see there is very rooted in centuries of history that are, on the practical level, defunct and so far removed from us that it would be impossible to replicate. But in spirit, these are very “earthy” practices that can be recaptured pretty easily. Obviously with social distancing in place it would be rather difficult to form a town-wide parade! But at the level of the home, this could be an opportunity for the household to walk around the property line, praying for one another and for the neighbors. It could be an opportunity to chat with the neighbors over the fence or across the road, pray for them or even with them! With the Spring planting now in full swing in many places, pray for your gardens or fields. Consider how you might use your bounty to bless others, especially the poor or needy.
Andm, if you want yet more ideas and background history, I commend to you The Homely Hours, a lovely blog with a wealth of historic Anglican insight, with a particular high-church-like attention to the traditions of our forebears.