Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rogation Sunday - Oddities & More....

Today, the 6th Sunday of Easter, is also Rogation Sunday.  Rogation-tide incorporates Rogation Sunday, as well as Mon., Tues., and Wed. following.  The Latin root of the word Rogation, rogare means "to ask" "to question" .. as in the word InterROGATION.  Part of praying is asking. So the Christian Church introduced Rogation Days as days to ask God for that blessing & protection on the crops and the products of the land and for people at all levels of the production chain. Especially for the people in the world who this very day do not receive enough of that produce, who are hungry. Not only do we ask God to bless the crops & animals but also to guide us so that we will use them wisely & make them available for all people. They are days to consider our responsibility as stewards of the earth and recognize that all of creation is precious.

  There were some questionable and unusual things that used to be done centuries ago during Rogation-tide.  Here are excerpts from a website I found that tell of some of these Rogation practices...

"The Rogation Days, the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension Day, originated in Vienne, France, in 470 after a series of natural disasters had caused much suffering among the people. Archbishop Mamertus proclaimed a fast and ordered that special litanies and prayers be said as the population processed around their fields, asking God's protection and blessing on the crops that were just beginning to sprout. The Latin word rogare means "to ask", thus these were "rogation" processions. In an agricultural society, closely connected with the soil and highly vulnerable to the uncertainties of nature, this was an idea that took root quickly, and the custom spread around Europe and over to Britain. 

The Gospel formerly appointed for that Sunday was from John 16, where Jesus tells his disciples to ask, and ye shall receive.  While technically they were days of fasting, for which they were also known as "Grass Days," for the meatless meals that were enjoined, the Rogation Days developed into a popular festival, celebrating the arrival of spring and serving other purposes, as well. Other names for these days include "Gang Days," from the Anglo-Saxon gangen, "to go," and "Cross Days," both titles signifying the processions with crosses and banners around the countryside. In some parishes, the procession took more than one day and the whole business became an occasion for several days of picnics and revels of all sorts, particularly among those who trooped along at the fringes of the religious aspects of the procession.
Beating the Boundaries, Victorian London

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. 
(WHEW!!  Glad they finally stopped that other practice, eh?!!)

Cross Procession around the property
The reminder of boundaries had another important impact on communal life. In a poem by Robert Frost, the poet's neighbor asserts that "good fences make good neighbors." Boundaries are often very important in relationships. As members of parishes beat the bounds, they would often encounter obstructions and violations of boundaries. The annual beating of the bounds provided an opportunity to resolve boundary issues. It also led to the tradition of seeking reconciliation in personal relationships during Rogationtide. The sharing of a specially brewed ale, called Ganging Beer, and a mysterious pastry, called Rammalation Biscuits, at the end of the walk was a good way of sealing the reconciliation.

George Herbert gave the following good reasons to beat the bounds:
1) a blessing of God for the fruits of the field;
2) Justice in the preservation of the bounds;
3) Charitie, in living, walking and neighbourliy accompanying one another, with reconciling of differences at that time, if they be any;
4) Mercie, in relieving the poor by a liberal distribution of largess which at that time is or oght be made.

The custom of placing crosses on boundary markers and in the fields seems to derive from the fact that the Rogation Days fall near the old feast day of the Invention (or Finding) of the Cross. Crouchmas ("Cross-mass") was on May 3rd and it was the custom on that day to place crosses in fields and gardens as a way of blessing them and praying for them to be fruitful. While full Rogation processions are rare today, the blessing of crosses to be planted in the fields of the faithful is one of the ways the older customs survive."

So, today, during Sunday School, we honored the Rogation Sunday time, we planted tomato plants, said some prayers for them, as well as the seed packets that our church was giving away to others today, and on the crops, gardens, and livestock, and for all of God's creation.

We made a few extra tomato planters and gave them away to others too.

We didn't do the beating of the boundaries thing, but the kids did get a treat of a candy flower after we were done planting and praying.

It was a fun way to do Rogation Sunday ... now, hopefully, our tomato plants (and the seeds we took home), will be fruitful for us all in the coming months, that we can share our bounty with others too!

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