Most churches celebrate Harvest with a big celebration. But Rogation is at the other end of the season. Rogation is about celebrating planting, preparing of the ground and asking for God’s blessing that the conditions will be good so that the seeds grow.
Rogation comes from the Latin verb “rogare” to ask. Traditionally the reading for this Sunday was from John 16 – “Ask and you shall receive”.
Christians started celebrating rogation at the time of Pope Leo 111.
It arrived in Britain in the 7th Century, and it became tradition to beat the bounds with a procession around the parish boundaries. Led by the Priest followed by the congregation, as they processed around the boundaries they sang hymns and blessed the fields and gardens.
Beating the bounds taught the youth about the boundaries of the parish when maps weren’t in common circulation. The young lads were also turned upside down and thrown in rivers or bushes as part of the tradition. (this doesn’t happen today of course).
At the end of the journey they were rewarded with coins, sweets or other nice things.
As time went on it became both a social and religious occasion open to everyone, often including a picnic.
Whilst in our church we don’t beat the bounds we have a benefice walk, (with 12 churches it would take a long time to walk around the whole benefice) ending with afternoon tea in the village hall. I attended this year’s walk and it was a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon, it was a chance for us to get to talk and walk. We walked between 4-6 miles and we ended where we began. It was a very enjoyable afternoon.
George Herbert gave the following reasons for beating the bounds:
- A blessing of God for the fruits of the field.
- Justice in preservation of the bounds.
- Charity, in living, walking and neighbourly accompanying of one another; reconciling of differences at that time, if they be any.
There was also a tradition of placing crosses on the boundary, or on fields and in gardens as a way of blessing them. Whilst placing them asking for God’s blessing on them to be fruitful.
Today, as we became more aware of our need to look after our environment, and our need to protect and preserve our planet perhaps Rogation Sunday is a chance for us to discuss this.
It would be a good chance to arrange a church picnic, or perhaps a church graveyard clean up or church garden plant? (with flowers) Or perhaps you could distribute seeds or bulbs for people to plant with God’s blessing.
Today’s service is an ideal way of including everyone.
You could include bring to the altar the seeds, soil, water for blessing.
(There are blessings on the internet)
The children could make crosses to go out to everyone’s gardens with God’s blessing. Garden twigs with garden plastic coated twine, is a good and easy way of holding them together. Perhaps you could incorporate a walk to collect the sticks as part of the children’s session.
There is so much you could do to make Rogation Sunday a time to enjoy and remember.