30 April 2008

Rogation Days

The Rogation Days are the three days preceding Ascension Day. They seem to have fallen off the church’s calendar a generation or so ago. The word “rogation” is from the Latin verb, rogo, “I ask.” They come at this point in the year because they are a time of special prayer that God may bless us in this season of planting. I suspect they were dropped from the calendar because they have an antiquated air to them, hearkening back to the days when society was more agrarian. Yet in these days of mass starvation in many parts of the world I believe they have a peculiarly contemporary ring. Here is an excerpt from the Exhortation following the Homily for the Rogation Days, written more than four hundred years ago. For ease of reading I have taken the liberty of modernizing some spellings and updating a few words.

If now therefore you will have your prayers heard before Almighty God, for the increase of your corn and cattle, and for the defense thereof from unseasonable mists and blasts, from hail and other such tempests, [pursue] love, equity, and righteousness, mercy and charity, which God most requires at our hands. Which Almighty God respecting chiefly, in making his civil laws for his people the Israelites, in charging the owners not to gather up their corn too nigh at harvest season, nor the grapes and olives in gathering time, but to leave behind some ears of corn for the poor gleaners (Leviticus 19.9-10, Deuteronomy 24.19-21). By this he meant to induce them to pity the poor, to relieve the needy, to show mercy and kindness. It cannot be lost, which for his sake is distributed to the poor (1 Corinthians 9.9-10). For he who ministers seed to the sower, and bread to the hungry, who sends downs the early and latter rain upon your fields, so to fill up the barns with corn, and the wine presses with wine and oil (Joel 2.23-24), he, I say, who recompenses all kinds of benefits in the resurrection of the just, he will assuredly recompense all merciful deeds shown to the needy, however unable the poor is, upon whom it is bestowed. “O,” says Solomon, “let not mercy and truth forsake you. Bind them about your neck,” says he, “and write them on the tablet of your heart, so shall you find favor at God’s hand” (Proverbs 3.3-4).

Thus honor thou the Lord with your riches, and with the first fruits of your increase: So shall your barns be filled with abundance, and your presses in all burst with new wine. Nay, God has promised to open the windows of heaven, upon the generous righteous man, that he shall want nothing. He will repress the devouring caterpillar, which should devour your fruits. He will give you peace and quiet to gather in your provision, that you may sit every man under his own vine quietly, without fear of foreign enemies to invade you. He will give you not only food to feed on, but stomachs and good appetites to take comfort of your fruits, whereby in all things you may have sufficiency. Finally, he will bless you with all manner [of] abundance in this transitory life,and endue you with all manner of benediction in the next world, in the kingdom of heaven, through the merits of our Lord and Savior, to whom with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be all honor everlasting. Amen.

The full text of the homily may be found here.

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