May 22, 2017, Rogation, Year A The Rev. Anne Abdy James 4:7-11, Psalm 147:1-13, John 12:23-26
Today is the first of three days described as Rogation Days. The celebration of Rogation Days is a mystery to many in the Episcopal Church. But these days of fasting have an interesting history and the readings bear this out.
Western Christianity prescribed days of prayer and fasting as a means of intercession for a good harvest. The “Major Rogation” day (April 25) landed on the pagan observance of “Robigalia” where worshipers walked the cornfields to pray for the perseverance of the fields from mildew. The lessor Rogation Days (the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday preceding The Feast of the Ascension) were ordered by St. Mamertus of Vienne (c. 470) when his diocese was troubled by volcanic eruptions. Processions were banned in 1549 but allowed during the reign of Elizabeth I. The observance of these days are first found in the 1662 BCP and were ordered to be “Days of Fasting and Abstinence.” In the more recent history, the Rogation observance has moved beyond prayers for fruitful seasons, to include prayers for being a good steward of God’s creation and prayers for those who labor in commerce and industry.
There are two common themes among the collects and the readings for this day. They are trust and the act of waiting or servitude during the long seasons ahead. There is waiting for the smallest seed to blossom into a greater plant that will yield food and nourishment for others. This is true for Christians too. We are to wait upon the Lord. His plan is always better than our own. I had a Spiritual Director who once told me, “Anne, control is not one of the spiritual gifts.” The Epistle tells us that we are to wait and humble ourselves before the Lord. Abundance will be the reward for “You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.”(Det. 8: 10)
My father loved living in Africa. He went to visit family in England for 6 months back in the 1950’s but returned 3 months early because he missed the continent and it’s people. So moving to the United States in 1986 was not an easily-made decision. He knew that he would have to start from scratch. Although he was the top candidate for the Search Committee at Holy Apostles, this church did interview the other 9 candidates but those men and women were not a “good match.” By the time they had finished with the ninth interview, my father had arrived in South Carolina and his bishop told him to head over to Barnwell. The Lord awarded him for his faithfulness and trust that all will be well. This tiny parish and town embraced him and our family as they welcomed us in.
Rogation days are opportunities for us to learn to wait upon the Lord. To listen to that small voice. To hear the Lord speak. And, like the earth waiting to burst forth with all it’s bounty, we are rewarded because Jesus ascends to the Father to make a place for us and for us to live in everlasting life.
 Information on Rogation Days taken from F L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2nd ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), 1193.
 Collects for Rogation Days, BCP, 258-259.