The Rogation Days – traditionally the three days preceding Ascension Day – are a time for prayers of petition. The roots of these days in rural England is reflected in the timing of the days to coincide with the planting of crops in that part of the world, in prayers for the land and crops, and in the tradition of Rogation processions to bless the fields. In our current prayer book, readings and collects for the three days focus on these traditional rural concerns the first day, commerce and industry the second day, and stewardship of creation the third day.
Even though Rogation Days are ignored by many in the church today, we are blessed to have inherited the tradition of setting aside days to pray for the conditions we need to grow good crops, for industries and commercial ventures that are responsive to God’s will and that provide workers a just return for their labor, and for stewardship of creation. Rogation Sunday – the Sunday before Ascension Day – and the Rogation Days can be more than a wistful nod back to a charming tradition. This season of Rogation can be reclaimed to give us a time to talk about, think about, and pray about some vital issues.
The Collect for today, the first of the Rogation Days, is entitled “For fruitful seasons”. This Collect and the readings for today focus on a petition for harvests “of the land and of the seas” and the conditions necessary for sustaining good harvests. This is something we understand in Nebraska, where our economy is based on agriculture! Climate stability, clean and plentiful water in our rivers, creeks, and aquifer, and soil conservation are all part of what we pray for when we pray for good growing conditions.
In one of the options for the Old Testament lesson for this Rogation Day (Jeremiah 14:1-9), Jeremiah describes the effects of a severe drought. The drought affects people – “the farmers are dismayed” – and wildlife – “Even the doe in the field forsakes her newborn fawn because there is no grass.” The passage ends with a plea for God’s help and a reminder of God’s presence. In a similar way, the passage from Romans (Romans 8:18-25) talks about living in hope while "the whole creation" is groaning. Paul reminds the Romans that hope is hope only when we can’t see the very thing for which we are hoping: “Now hope that is seen is not hope.”
In a time when severe weather events have been increasing, when the amount of greenhouse gases associated with climate change is increasing, and when the aggressive extraction of fossil fuels threatens not only our water and the Sandhills eco-system in Nebraska, but also water, land, and air quality in many places, these passages can remind us that we can live in hope even when the chances of turning things around seem to be slim.
For fruitful seasons
Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: We humbly pray that your gracious providence may give and preserve to our use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and may prosper all who labor to gather them, that we, who are constantly receiving good things from your hand, may always give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, pp. 258-259)