Reflection for the Sixth Sunday of Easter – Rogation Sunday.

”Love one another…… I chose you…to bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures.” Jesus, in John 15:9-17

”You weren’t kind. You made that person feel worse than they did when you turned up. Your job is to be kind to these people and do what you can for them. Because in their kind of minute, hour, week, year of need they’re asking you for help. The one thing you can be is kind.” 

London ambulance paramedic, after a patient got upset and left the vehicle. 

Rogation comes from the Latin rogare, meaning to ask, and is the time when God’s blessing was traditionally asked on the sowing of the seed – a good harvest would be a necessity as the winter would otherwise be bleak. The beating of the bounds also took place then, marking the boundaries of the village, praying for protection for it and checking that fences, walls and gates were in good order to keep in the cattle and livestock. In bygone days and without the cheap imports and pesticides available nowadays, people were dependent on their land and its yield. The extensive recent floods and bad weather have meant that, in some areas today, crops can’t yet be sown or have rotted as the ground is still too wet. With parts of Europe in a similar position, and the war affecting Ukrainian supplies, potatoes, root vegetables and grain are already being affected as cheap alternatives are not so available. A new awareness may result, with respect for use of the land, rivers and seas in the spotlight due to recent pollution levels in the Thames being an issue in the Boat Race and water companies.  

Rogationtide still has significance, especially in rural areas, and a Procession is usually held at St Melangell’s. On one occasion, we were in the churchyard, considering the ancient yews that are thought to be at least two thousand years old and I was very surprised when a head poked out of a large hole in the trunk and asked, “What are you doing here?” “More to the point, what are you doing there?” I replied – every part of the yew Taxus Baccata is poisonous, except the aril or berry which contains the most toxic part: the seed. I was concerned for her welfare, but she replied cheerily, “Don’t mind me – I’m just a witch come to find wood for my wand.” You never know who’s here!

In the Dark Ages, it was sometimes suggested that, where there’s a church, the devil would set up a chapel on the North or dark side and might be attracted to the red arils which could kill him. Sadly, any news bulletin shows that the power of evil is alive in our world today just as it was then but then, if a death was caused by anything infectious, the grave would be lined with yew in the hope that it would kill any spores and protect those who visited it. That has now been harnessed by scientists and pharmacists in the development of Taxol and Tamoxifen for the treatment of cancer in chemotherapy – those Dark Ages still bring enlightenment for which many have reason to be thankful.

Perhaps there are experiences in our backgrounds and relationships that are toxic and could poison goodwill if allowed to or be used to enable healing instead? Like that harassed London paramedic, as we battle wrongdoing the many demands made of us may mean that love and kindness do not always prevail. In the Gospel today, Jesus commands his followers to bear much fruit – this Rogationtide, what sorts of seeds are being sown in our lives and what yield of fruit is likely to result?

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Priest Guardian.