Remember, Lord, your mercy and loving-kindness towards us. Bless this good earth, and make it fruitful. Bless our labour, and give us all things needed for our daily lives. Bless the homes of our parish and all who live within them. Bless our common life and our care for our neighbour. Hear us, good Lord. Amen. ― A prayer for Rogationtide
ROGATION DAYS are when the Church has traditionally offered prayer for God’s blessings on the fruits of the earth and the labours of those who produce our food. The word “rogation” is from the Latin rogare, “to ask.” Historically, the Rogation Days (the three days before Ascension Day) were a period of fasting and abstinence, asking for God’s blessing on the crops for a bountiful harvest. Less of us today directly derive our livelihood from the production of food, yet it is good to be reminded of our dependence upon those who do and our responsibility for the environment. Traditionally a common feature of Rogation days was the ceremony of beating the bounds, in which a procession of parishioners, led by the minister and churchwardens would proceed around the boundary of their parish and pray for its protection in the forthcoming year. As it is no longer practical to follow exact boundaries many services will be held that have a focus on specific elements of creation such as livestock, fields, orchards and gardens.
Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelt the pleasing odour, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.
As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
shall not cease.’
God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life.
Whoever sheds the blood of a human,
by a human shall that person’s blood be shed;
for in his own image
God made humankind.
And you, be fruitful and multiply, abound on the earth and multiply in it.’
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’
As we saw last week, just like Noah, we have been living through unprecedented times. We find him here at the end of the story, but of course, we are still part way through ours. We join him this week as the rhythm of life is beginning to show itself again. Rogation Days remind us that we too are part of this rhythm of life.
What signs of spring have you particularly enjoyed this year?
This ‘harvest’ hymn is actually a great one for any time in the agricultural year. Try reading it as a paragraph before singing along with the video!
We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand; he sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain, the breezes and the sunshine and soft refreshing rain. All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord for all his love. He only is the maker of all things near and far; he paints the wayside flower, he lights the evening star; the wind and waves obey him, by him the birds are fed; much more to us his children, he gives our daily bread. All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord for all his love. We thank you, then, O Father, for all things bright and good, the seed-time and the harvest, our life, our health, our food: accept the gifts we offer for all your love imparts; and that which you most welcome, our humble, thankful hearts. All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord for all his love.
Bless our God, O you peoples;
make the voice of his praise to be heard,
8 Who holds our souls in life
and suffers not our feet to slip.
9 For you, O God, have proved us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
10 You brought us into the snare;
you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.
11 You let enemies ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water;
but you brought us out into a place of liberty.
12 I will come into your house with burnt offerings
and will pay you my vows,
which my lips uttered
and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
13 I will offer you fat burnt sacrifices
with the smoke of rams;
I will sacrifice oxen and goats.
14 Come and listen, all you who fear God,
and I will tell you what he has done for my soul.
15 I called out to him with my mouth
and his praise was on my tongue.
16 If I had nursed evil in my heart,
the Lord would not have heard me,
17 But in truth God has heard me;
he has heeded the voice of my prayer.
18 Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer,
nor withheld his loving mercy from me.
May Day has similar themes to Rogationtide. Chris and I had planned to be in Oxford for May Day this year. The day starts early at 6 a.m. with the Magdalen College Choir singing a hymn, the Hymnus Eucharisticus, from the top of the college tower, a tradition stretching back over 500 years and meant as a blessing of the farmlands that the college relied upon. The choir traditionally also sings a madrigal, Now Is the Month of Maying. following prayers for the city led by the Dean of Divinity. Large crowds of both students and Oxford residents normally gather under the tower, along the High Street and on Magdalen Bridge. Students and fellows of Magdalen College gather in the college cloisters and on top of the other towers within the college grounds. As many as 27000 people gather to listen. This year, the event was cancelled of course, however the choir recorded a ‘Virtual May Morning’, originally broadcast live.
I am so pleased that the lockdown rules are relaxed a little. This year, as I did in 2019, I will be ‘beating the bounds’ of the parish over these Rogation Days, taking time to pray for our community as I wend my way around the red line of the boundary.
Collects for this Week
God our redeemer,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:
grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life,
so by his continual presence in us he may raise us
to eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
God our Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ gives the water of eternal life:
may we thirst for you,
the spring of life and source of goodness,
through him who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.
by the lakeside you renewed your call to your disciples:
help your Church to obey your command
and draw the nations to the fire of your love,
to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus said, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’