O gracious Father, who openest thine hand and fillest all things living with plenteousness: Bless the lands and waters, and multiply the harvests of the world; let thy Spirit go forth, that it may renew the face of the earth; show thy loving-kindness, that our land may give her increase; and save us from selfish use of what thou givest, that men and women everywhere may give thee thanks; through Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 828)
Stewardship of creation is an ongoing ministry in the church. The creation which God declared good is entrusted to the care of humankind. Exercising that care is one dimension of daily Christian discipleship. Rogation Days are a way for the church to honor God for the gift of creation and to pray for the land, the gift of labor, and the needs of all people.
Rogation Days are traditionally celebrated during the Great Fifty Days of Easter on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension Day (May 6, 7 and 8 this year). The word, Rogation, has its roots in the Latin word (rogare) which means to ask or petition and it comes from the ancient introit for the Sunday preceding the Ascension. In some places, particularly England, the celebrations of Rogation Days were quite elaborate and included processions from the church to and around fields while asking for God’s blessing. These processions were known as “beating the bounds” as they often followed the parish boundaries.
The Episcopal Church maintains the practice of celebrating Rogation Days on the three days before the Ascension. However, provision is also made for Rogation Days to be celebrated at times and places which meet local needs. With an increased awareness of the need for the stewardship of creation both within the church and within contemporary culture, the themes of thanksgiving for the land and petitions for a fruitful earth may be adapted around broader cultural celebrations of Earth Day.
Although Rogation Days are agricultural celebrations, they are not solely for rural congregations. These days underscore the dependence of all people, urban and rural, on the fruitfulness of the earth and human labor. The themes of Rogation Days may be highlighted in a special worship service or in prayers of intercession on the Sunday preceding Ascension Day.
The Book of Common Prayer has a set of propers to commemorate these feast days. These propers include three prayers traditionally used for Rogation Days: a prayer for fruitful seasons, a prayer for the stewardship of creation, and a prayer for commerce and industry. A set of scripture readings appropriate for a Rogation service is also provided. The Great Litany or the Litany of the Saints is traditionally said or sung during a Rogation procession.
While we will not formally observe the Rogation Days at St. Mary’s this year, please be mindful of your role as a steward of God’s creation. Take time to observe the beautiful shades of green we see only in the early spring. Notice the early blooming flowers and the rich, loamy smell of the earth. Whether or not you are a farmer or gardener, remember those who till and plant, and give thanks for their labors on your behalf. Thank God for all the gifts that are provided by God’s gracious providence. Celebrate the beauty and bounty of all creation that reflects and magnifies the glory of God.