23 May 2022

My 'Rogations' problem

 This week's Rogation processions ... the recorded facts appear to be that they were invented by S Mamertus Bishop (primate) of Vienne (near the confluence of the Gere and the Rhone) in 470; extended to all Gaul in 511, but not introduced to Rome until the time of S Leo III (795-816).

My problem?

In 747, before the pontificate of S Leo III, the English Council of Cloveshoe ordered, in its Canon 16, the observance of the Greater Rogation on April 25; and of the Lesser Rogations on these three days before the Ascension. The Greater Rogation it calls "iuxta ritum Romanae Ecclesiae"; the Lesser Rogations"secundum morem priorem nostrorum".

So far, so good. Or is it? 

The same Canon informs us that at that moment the April 25 Rogation "laetania maior apud eam [sc Romanam Ecclesiam] vocatur".  

But why should the Roman Church call April 25 the Great Rogation unless there were Lesser Rogations from which it needed to be distinguished?

I am not convinced that, in 747, the Lesser Rogations had no place in Rome. Indeed, there is evidence that, even in Vienne, before the time of S Mamertus, there had been rogations for fine weather ... but only vagae, tepentes, infrequentes ... oscitabundae supplicationes, and that it was the Saint who made them a more serious (i.e. clericalised) business of Fasting, Prayer, Psalmody, and Tears. 

Back to that English Council of 747. It orders that the pre-Ascension Rogations should be observed "non admixtis vanitatibus, ut mos est plurimis, vel negligentibus vel imperitis, id est in ludis et equorum cursibus et epulis maioribus; sed magis cum timore". The Cross  and the Relics of the Saints are to be carried in the processions; the people are to kneel and humbly beg forgiveness for their sins.

My conclusion: I believe that a probably raucous, popular series of three processions (like the Lustrum which I described yesterday) used to happen all over the Latin World; originally pagan and designed to seek divine favour in the form of the sort of weather the crops needed. By this time, they had become unhitched from pagan cult ... but not from its comcomitant festive excesses. Hypothesising further, I wonder if the April 25 Rogation was originally a papal initiative designed to put in place a more 'proper' way of seeking divine favour ... but that the old paganish Rogations nevertheless survived (in Rome and throughout the West) until a 'Reform movement' starting with S Mamertus, taking in Cloveshoe, and ending with Pope Leo III (Charlemagne's pope), 'sorted them out'. [Rather as that spoilsport Cardinal Cullen, twelve hundred years later, 'sorted out' the old Irish pattern celebrations.]

My feeling is that the Rogations pretty certainly take us back into the intriguing world of popular Latin religion centuries before the advent of Christianity; to a time when human beings lived much closer to the Earth and its rhythms without needing to invent Gaia or Our Common Home or Pachamama, or to repackage themselves as neoDruids or Wicca rediviva

The loss of these ancient, inculturated rites, in the form that Christianity reshaped them and handed them on, is just yet another of the impoverishments left behind by those who grabbed the executive reins after the end of the Council ... in the period which poor ignorant arthur roche has explained to us was the Great Enrichment.

1 comment:

Prayerful said...

If someone looks in a typical hand Missal, say a Marian Missal of 1950 (p. 434, source of the Angelus and Baronius missal, and published in some form until the late 60s, before modern republication, so anyone can look it up) it will just conventionally state that the Lesser Litanies originate in Vienne as you note and the Greater Litanies are and Roman, origination in the City itself. This in spite of how 5th century Vienne (or Vienna then) was very much Roman or Gallo-Roman. Pastoral Popes of old, famously St Gregory the Great, or, say, St Gelasius I with Lupercalia in 494 AD (although his condemnation was probably only start of a process of its Christianization), took older festivals of field and space and gave them a Christian form. For a group of academic priests with barely a parish between them, this venerable tradition was surely nothing to turtleneck wearing Modern Man. This baleful crew called Concilium failed with their liturgical product for many reasons, but an utter contempt for tradition, ripping up and bodging together proper after proper, has to be part of the reason. People, even Modern Man like to rooted in some way. Thank you for the many interesting posts on this topic Fr.