Project Canterbury

The Cross and the Plow: A Service for Rogationtide in Procession.

New York: The National Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 1950.

Rogationtide in the Church

The observance of Rogation Day had its inception in a calamitous community situation: the devastation of the city of Vienne in Gaul by earthquakes, fire, rioting, and looting during the middle of the fifth century. The Bishop Mamertus called the people to observe a solemn fast and public supplication as atonement for their misdoings and to establish a right relationship with God. The observance lasted three days, including a solemn processional with chant and litany around the bounds of the city.

Spreading throughout the Church, this observance developed a three-fold emphasis:

Petition for forgiveness for transgressions.

Petition for protection from calamities.

Petition for bountiful crops. Because of the petitionary nature of the prayers this observance came to be called the Rogation Days from the Latin rogare, to beseech. They became incorporated in the Christian calendar as the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday preceding Ascension Day with the preceding Sunday (always the Fifth Sunday after Easter) being observed as Rogation Sunday.

In English tradition the Rogation Days were continuously observed with variations in practices and with an emphasis gradually focussed on seedtime, planting, and petition for a bountiful harvest. Open air services, processionals through the fields and farms, and "beating the bounds" of the parish boundaries marked the observance. The custom arose for scriptural passages to be read and prayers offered at conspicuous boundary markers or various fields.

The spiritual note lifted out by this observance was that God and man are co-operators in the creative processes of agriculture, that the tilling and care of the soil are man's God-given tasks and privilege: that in the final analysis man's life rests on God's goodness in quickening the life-giving power in the sown seed which results in the return to man of the bounties of the earth.

Centuries ago and until recently the blessing of the tiller, the seed and the soil was highly relevant for all of society because most people lived near the soil. This background enabled them to give proper interpretation to the eternal truths emphasized in the agriculturally oriented Rogation observance. Today in the midst of a changed and changing rural society, which is only a segment of the changed wider community, men are less likely to understand the relevance of Rogationtide. yet it is more than ever necessary to bring before them the full impact of God's sovereignty and the need for His blessing upon all our endeavors, whether in farming, in business, in industry, or in other areas of life and occupation.

Wherever this can be the focal point, the traditional observance symbolically takes on new meaning, which reminds us that ... "In the beginning God created heaven and the earth ... and the Lord God planted a garden eastward ... and took the man and put him into the garden to till it and keep it forever."

Whatever a man does, he is dependent upon God, he stands under God's judgment, his toil should be to the honor and glory of God and in this condition he beseeches God's Blessing. This is still the Rogation message and it is the purpose which underlies the service which follows.


For Use in a City Church or where an Outdoor Procession is Impossible

The Cross and the Plow is designed for outdoor processional use, but may be adapted for indoor use if weather or space conditions require this limitation. It can be used alone or with the Prayer Book Order for Daily Morning or Evening Prayer (after the third Collect or following the complete Order), or with Holy Communion (following the Creed). Special permission of the Diocesan may be required for such usage.

Imagination on the part of the minister will help make the service more meaningful for a particular congregation. Selected hymns are printed for convenience. Other hymns and prayers, or even stations, may be added or substituted if desired.

The Cross and the Plow is based on the traditional Rogationtide services of the Church of England, with special adaptation to American community life. It provides a fourfold division of the procession:

Station One. The soil and the seed.
Station Two. The laborer.
Station Three. The farm home and farmyard.
Station Four. The community and the Church.

For Use where an Indoor Procession Is Possible

Where side aisles and chancel space are such that an indoor procession is possible, set up the stations at convenient intervals and with appropriate symbols:

Station One. A bucket of soil and a bucket of seed grain. If proper preparation can be made, ask each church family to bring a small bag of soil and a packet of seeds from home. Mix all the soil on a sand table, or in a bucket, and redistribute after the service and the soil blessing (have extra soil and bags for visitors, or those who forget). Likewise, redistribute the packets of blessed seeds. Instruct families to scatter the blessed soil over their fields, garden, or lawn.

Station Two. Farm and farm home workers and their tools. Any "real" farm working couples in the congregation who are willing to stand at the station in ordinary work clothing and with representative tools, such as hoe, rake, shovel, fork, will add much to the service. Lacking such farm people, substitute persons, acolytes, or young people may be used as representatives.

Station Three. Farm animals and crops and the farm family. Conditions may permit a crate with calf, lamb, or pig to be placed in the church. At least a wire cage with several chickens may be used. A bale of hay, or a sheaf or shock of grain may be added and the presence of a rural family (parents and children) may complete the symbolism of the station.

Station Four. The Church and the community may be symbolized by the wardens or vestrymen of the parish standing together before the altar with any community officials or representatives of organizations and community life, i.e., the mayor, the Chamber of Commerce, farm organizations, Soil Conservation District officials, County Agricultural Agent, etc.

The choir, acolytes, and congregation may process through this series of stations or, if more desirable, the congregation may remain in the pews while the choir, or even acolytes and clergy alone make up the procession.

For Use where an Indoor Procession is Impossible

The Cross and the Plow may still be used where no procession is possible by setting up the stations at the chancel steps, or in the chancel itself. In this case, the minister alone, or the minister with one or two acolytes will represent the procession. Stations may be set up as described above, or persons comprising part of the station may take their places as that portion of the service is reached.

For Use in a Non-Agricultural Setting

Special adaptation may help in making the service more relative to churches in non-agricultural rural communities, or to city churches. Laborers in machinery manufacturing plants, the tools they use, and mechanics; food processing persons and their products and machinery; marketing representatives; and labor union officials may all take their places in the respective stations. Forestry, mining, tourist and other agriculturally related industries can be represented at the stations and sentences or Collects may be added to take into account these necessary additions to make the service more appropriate for use.


A Service for Rogationtide in Procession


The Minister shall begin the service by reading the following from the chancel.

THE Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens. By his knowledge the depths are broken up and the clouds drop down the dew. Proverbs III: 19-20.

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter and day and night shall not cease. Genesis VIII: 22.

Then likewise he shall say,

O Lord, open thou our lips
Answer. And our mouth shall show forth thy praise.

Then shall be sung a hymn,

1. O worship the King, all glorious above!
O gratefully sing his power and his love!
Our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

2. O tell of his might! O sing of his grace!
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space.
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is his path on the wings of the storm.

3. The earth with its store of wonders untold,
Almighty thy power hath founded of old,
Hath stablished it fast by a changeless decree,
And round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.

4. Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air; it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills; it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distils in the dew and the rain.

5. Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In thee do we trust, nor find thee to fail;
Thy mercies, how tender! how firm to the end!
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend! Amen.

And then shall the Minister say,

DEARLY beloved, we learn from the Scriptures that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and caused the sun to shine and the rain to fall, the plants to grow and the earth to give forth her increase. He is the giver of life in the seed, in the soil, and in the sowers. Then God said, let us make man in our image and let him have dominion over everything upon the earth. We are now assembled to ask God’s blessing on the seed that has been planted, the soil that has been cultivated, and the sowers that labor to the service of God and for the good of mankind.

Hear the words of the Lord as proclaimed through the Prophet Ezekiel in the twenty-fourth chapter beginning at the twenty-fifth verse:

I WILL make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those who served themselves of them. And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid. And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more. Thus shall they know that I the Lord their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord God. And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God.

Then shall the Minister say,

Let us go forth in peace.
In the name of the Lord. Amen.

Crucifier and choir shall lead the procession to the first Station, singing a hymn in which all shall join.

1. We plow the fields, and scatter
The good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God's almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft, refreshing rain.


All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above;
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all his love.

2. He only is the Maker
Of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower,
He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey him,
By him the birds are fed;
Much more to us, his children,
He gives our daily bread.


3. We thank thee, then, O Father,
For all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest,
Our life, our health, our food:
No gifts have we to offer
For all thy love imparts,
But that which thou desirest,
Our humble, thankful hearts.


First Station: Plowed Field or Garden Ready for the Seed.

The Minister shall lead in the Litany for God's Gifts.

FROM God comes every good and perfect gift;
From God comes every good and perfect gift.

The rich soil, the smell of the fresh-turned earth;
Come from God.

The keenness of the winter's frost, men's breath, and horses, steaming;
Come from God.

The clatter of the tractor, the gleam of a cutting edge;
Come from God.

The wheeling of the birds, men's shouts and laughter;
Come from God.

The seamed hand, the knotted arm, the sweat of the brow, the skill of the plowman;
Come from God.

The beauty of a clean-cut furrow, the sweep of a well-plowed field;
Come from God.

Blessed be God in all his gifts.
And holy in all his works.

Then shall the Minister say one or more of the following prayers.

Rogation Day

ALMIGHTY God, Lord of heaven and earth: We beseech thee to pour forth thy blessing upon this land, and to give us a fruitful season; that we constantly receiving thy bounty may evermore give thanks unto thee in thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Joy in God's Creation

O HEAVENLY Father, who has filled the world with beauty, open we beseech thee, our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works that rejoicing in all creation we may learn to serve thee with gladness; for the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Stewardship

O GOD, who hast entrusted the soil to our keeping, help us to render to thee a good account of our stewardship; that as we keep our land in good heart, so we may ourselves be rich in Christian living; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

BLESSED Lord who hast given us the earth to live on, warmed by the sun, made wet by the rain, having fields and gardens and orchards; Help us to use the good things fairly, and with kindness one toward another, working for each other and living for thee. Glory be to thee, O Lord. Amen.

Blessing of the Soil and the Seed

Here, if desired, a bucket of seed may be blessed as symbolic of the sown seed.

MAY God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit bless the pastures and meadows, all growing grass and green fields. May the soil be wholesome and the crops good. May the weather be favorable and the workers in good heart. And may he that giveth breath and life to the sower, multiply the seed sown and increase the fruits of our righteousness. Amen.

Congregation shall then process to the Second Station singing a hymn.

1. For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.


Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

2. For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light.


3. For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind's delight,
For the mystic harmony,
Linking sense to sound and sight.


4. For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.


5. For each perfect gift of thine
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine
Flowers of earth and buds of heaven.


Second Station: The Laborer, Farm Implements, and Tools

And the Minister shall say,

HEAR the words of our Lord as written in the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, beginning at the third verse:

BEHOLD, a sower went forth to sow his seed. As he was sowing some of the seed fell by the path and was trodden on, and the wild birds ate it up. And some of it fell upon the rock and when it sprang up, it withered, because it had no moisture. And some fell among the thorns and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. And some fell on good soil and grew up and yielded up an hundredfold.

Let us pray

For Unity With God's Purposes

GRANT, O Lord, to all who till the ground, the wisdom to understand thy laws and to cooperate with thy wise ordering of the world. Give to men of science the power to discover the secrets of nature. Give to our statesmen the will to make just laws. Give to farmers and laborers and industrialists the desire to work together in the spirit of justice and good will. And grant that the fruits of thy bountiful earth may not be hoarded by selfish men, but that all who work may share abundantly in the harvest of thy soil, according to thy will as revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And the Minister shall lead the congregation in the Litany for the Unity of God's Family

THAT thou wilt give men skill and enterprise in husbanding the resources of the earth, that all thy children may have meat enough;
We beseech thee.

That we may not try to live by bread alone, but measure all our wealth and all our labor by thy standards;
We beseech thee.

That the condition of men's daily toil may not starve the souls whom thou hast made for thyself;
We beseech thee.

That the conscience of mankind may be so aroused that we shall no more eat the bread of oppression, but work together in comradeship and justice;
We beseech thee.

That thou wilt give us all a deeper sense of our membership one of another, so that the bonds of our economic life may be the expression of our fellowship in Christ.
We beseech thee.

For Fruitful Seasons

ALMIGHTY God who hast blessed the earth that it should be fruitful and bring forth whatsoever is needful for the life of man, and hast commanded us to work with quietness and eat our own bread; Bless the labors of the husbandmen and grant such seasonable weather that we may gather in the fruits of the earth, and ever rejoice in thy goodness to the praise of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Here, if desired, a farm man and woman attired in work clothes may be blessed as symbolic of all farm laborers.

Blessing of the Sower and the Reaper

MAY God give us his blessing and the earth bring forth her increase abundantly that the sower may sow in joy and the reapers gather their sheaves in gladness and ever bless his Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The congregation shall then process to the Third Station singing a hymn.

1. New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought;
Restored to life and power and thought.

2. New mercies each returning day,
Around us hover while we pray;
New perils past, new sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

3. If on our daily course our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,
New treasures still, of countless price
God will provide for sacrifice.

4. Old friends, old scenes, will lovelier be,
As more in heaven in each we see;
Some softening gleam of love and prayer
Shall dawn on every cross and care.

5. The trivial round, the common task,
Will furnish all we ought to ask;
Room to deny ourselves—a road
To bring us daily nearer God.

6. Only, O Lord, in thy dear Love,
Fit us for perfect rest above;
And help us, this and every day,
To live more nearly as we pray. Amen.

Third Station: The Farm Home and the Farmyard

The Minister shall lead the congregation in the following canticle

O ye fowls of the air, bless ye the Lord.
Praise him and magnify him forever.
O ye beasts and cattle, bless ye the Lord.
Praise him and magnify him forever.
O ye children of men, bless ye the Lord.
Praise him and magnify him forever.

And the Minister shall say,

For the simple, honest, and clean things of life;
For the stirring of all young life throughout the countryside;
For hard work in the open that wearies and satisfies a man;
For the security of a home to come back to, a roof over our heads, a fire in our kitchens, food to eat, and sound sleep at night;

Answer. Thanks be to God.
Minister. Let us pray.

For Animals

O HEAVENLY Father, who in thy wondrous goodness had the birds and beasts of the stable share in the mystery and the wonder of the Holy Nativity of thy dear Son, guard and bless, we beseech thee, the animals which thou dost provide to assist man in his labors and needs; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessing of the Farm Family

BLESS, O Lord, this house and farm and those who live here and do their work. Give them health and purity, strength and humility, goodness and meekness, the fulfillment of the law of Christ and thanksgiving to God, now and always. Amen.

¶ The congregation shall then process to the fourth Station singing a hymn.

1. Fairest Lord Jesus,
Ruler of all nature,
O thou of God and man the Son;
Thee will I cherish,
Thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul's glory, joy, and crown.

2. Fair are the meadows,
Fairer still the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer,
Who makes the woeful heart to sing.

3. Fair is the sunshine,
Fairer still the moonlight,
And all the twinkling, starry host:
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer,
Than all the angels heav'n can boast.

Fourth Station: At the Churchyard

¶ Then the Minister shall lead the congregation in the Litany of the Hymn of Creation.

O MOST high, omnipotent, good Lord God, to thee belong praise, glory, honor, and all blessing.

For our brother the sun, who is our day and who brings us the light; who is fair, and radiant with a very great splendor;
Praised be our Lord.

For our sister the moon, and for the stars which thou hast set clear and lovely in heaven;
Praised be our Lord.

For our brother the wind, and for air and cloud, calms and all weather;
Praised be our Lord.

For our sister water, who is very serviceable unto us and humble and precious and chaste;
Praised be our Lord.

For our brother fire, by whom thou lightest up the night, and who is fair and merry and very mighty and strong;
Praised be our Lord.

For our mother the earth, which doth sustain us and keep us, and bringeth forth divers fruits, and flowers of many colors, and grass;
Praised be our Lord.

For all those who pardon one another for thy love's sake, and who bear weakness and tribulation;
Praised be our Lord.

Blessed are they who peaceable shall endure, walking by thy most holy will; for thou, O most highest, shall give them a crown;
Praise ye and bless ye the Lord and give thanks unto him, and serve him with great humility. Amen.


O GRACIOUS Father, who openest thy hand and fillest all things living with plenteousness; we beseech thee of thine infinite goodness to hear us, who now make our prayers and supplications unto thee. Remember not our sins, but thy promises of mercy. Vouchsafe to bless the lands and multiply the harvests of the world. Let thy breath go forth that it may renew the face of the earth. Show thy loving kindness that our lands may give their increase; and so fill us with good things that the poor and needy may give thanks unto thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer

The congregation shall join in singing a hymn.

1. O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

2. O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thorough-fare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

3. O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

4. O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea! Amen.

MAY the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit rest upon us and upon all our work and worship done in his Name. May he give us light to guide us, courage to support us, and love to unite us, now and for evermore. Amen.

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