We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Rogation Sunday

“Blessing of the wheat at Artois” (1857) – Jules Breton (1827 – 1906). Rural notables, village maidens, and others make up the procession, and as they pass, peasants kneel before them in pious gratitude in Artois in northern France. This epic picture emphasizes the social harmony of the agricultural community, which in turn brings forth the fruits of a bountiful nature.”

During May and June of most years there are 4 Sundays that are formally named – Rogation, Ascension, Pentecost and Trinity.

This week is Rogation Sunday. “  Rogation” comes from the Latin verb, “rogare,” which means “to ask.” Rogationtide is a festival primarily focused on the planting season to ask for God’s blessing on the fields and crops,  an abundant harvest in light of calamities such as war, disease, bad weather and natural disasters.  It is a time for appreciating our dependence upon the land for food and most importantly upon our dependence on God for the miracles of sprouting seeds, growing plants, and maturing harvest

Rogation is time set aside to appreciate and recognize our dependence upon the land for our food and most importantly upon our dependence of God for the miracles of sprouting seeds, growing plants, and maturing harvest.  It takes on an environmental focus which affects all of us. We praise God for what God has provided but also ask for forgiveness for our mishandling the environment. In our time, Rogation can be made into a study of the environment and how we can improve it.

“He that plants trees loves others besides himself.” – Thomas Fuller

“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver. ” – Martin Luther

Rogation takes place in the springtime, when there is a renewing of the earth. In our country, it follows Easter, the season of resurrection, usually on the Sixth Sunday in Eastertide. Renewal and resurrection therefore are also underlying themes of this occasion.

We call this Sunday “Rogation Sunday” because the 3 days which follow it are ancient Rogation Days, these being the 3 days leading up to the great Feast of the Ascension of our Lord

Rogationtide has a fascinating history that dates all the way back to 470 AD when France was in turmoil – the Goths were invading, so the threat of war was constantly looming; communities were experiencing all manner of disasters – disease, fires, earthquakes and even wild animal attacks. It is during this time that the Bishop of Vienne, Mamertus turned to prayer and procession, starting the official Christian version of Rogationtide.  The perfect storm of uncertainty existing at the inception of this celebration can feel all too familiar in our current day and age.

A secondary purpose developed. By the 17th century, the old Roman festival of ‘Terminalia”, or “boundaries”, had been adapted by the church and served a practical purpose  It began to be called “beating the bounds. ”A  procession of parishioners, led by the minister, churchwarden, and choirboys, would proceed around the boundary of their parish and pray for its protection in the forthcoming year. The processions stopped at boundary marks and other significant parish landmarks for prayers, reading of the Gospel, affixing the cross and marking said boundaries with long sticks.  During the procession, boys were bumped on prominent marks and boundary stones, or rolled in briars and ditches, or thrown in the pond to ensure they never forgot the boundaries! The Victorians made it more civilized by beating objects rather than people, in the context of a service and procession.

There was a reason for all of this. In days before survey maps, there were not always clear lines of demarcation between the parishes, especially where there were open field systems.

In our time we have adapted this into a prayer walk in the village of Port Royal creating prayers at various stop. We did this in 2017 and 2018. Here is 2017

Rogation was also a time to check in with your neighbors which we have done with the prayer walk. The gathering of people for Rogation Day was not just about being a nice neighbor but about a deeper realization of our complete interconnectedness to each other, not only in the physical but also the spiritual. It was about experiencing love in the plural, love practiced in community.