Sunday, May 1, 2016

Beating the bounds: recovering the rogation days

Rogation procession at my parish church earlier today
For a millennium and a half, from the dusk of the western Empire to 1969, the Roman Church reserved the three days prior to Ascension Thursday as "rogation days". Deriving from rogare (Latin, "to ask") these days were marked with processions in the fields and prayers of penitence to implore seasonable weather, a good harvest, and deliverance from evils of every kind, but especially against natural disaster. 

The post-conciliar Church didn't technically abolish the rogations, but merely said that from henceforth, national bishops' conferences could decide for themselves how to adapt rogation and ember days for their own needs, dependent upon the local culture and the concerns of an industrial society. It was a nice idea, but in effect, no bishops' conferences did anything about it. As a result, the rogation days were effectively abolished, save for their mandatory observance in the 1962 and prior missals, and now, Deo gratias, the Divine Worship Missal of the Personal Ordinariates. If you don't believe me, here's the proof, quoting from "GENERAL NORMS FOR THE LITURGICAL YEAR AND THE CALENDAR – 14 FEBRUARY 1969".
VII. Rogation and Ember Days

45. On rogation and ember days the practice of the Church is to offer prayers to the Lord for the needs of all people, especially for the productivity of the earth and for human labor, and to give him public thanks.

46. In order to adapt the rogation and ember days to various regions and the different needs of the people, the conferences of bishops should arrange the time and plan for their celebration.

Consequently, the competent authority should lay down norms, in view of local conditions, on extending such celebrations over one or several days and on repeating them during the year.

47. On each day of these celebrations the Mass should be one of the votive Masses for various needs and occassions that is best suited for the intentions of the petitioners.

Today, at my Ordinariate parish, we braved the rains and had a "votive" rogation procession while, at least in spirit, "beating the bounds": a custom from medieval English times whereby the people of a parish would walk along the parish's territorial boundary to remind the neighboring pastor and parishioners exactly where their jurisdiction ends! In the case of our own parish, our jurisdiction ends at the parking lot, so the procession was mercifully short compared to medieval standards.

Along the way, we sang "The Litany", a catch-all litany of intercessory prayers that was developed for the Book of Common Prayer, combining a little of this, a little of that from the various litanies and supplications in the Sarum Missal and elsewhere. If you'd like to read it, the version on my old pastor's blog post here is nearly identical to the one we used today.

My favorite of these oft-antiquated sounding petitions is probably:

"V. From all sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion; from violence, battle, and murder; and from dying suddenly and unprepared,

R. Good Lord, deliver us."

From Wikipedia: "Blessing the Fields on Rogation Sunday at Hever, Kent"

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