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Happy Lammastide everyone!
By the time of reading this article Lammas Day will have been celebrated. Lammas Day is the religious celebration of the beginning of the Wheat harvest - Lammas comes from the Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas, which means ‘loaf-mass’. For this Mass it was customary for people to bring to Church a loaf made from the new crop, which began to be harvested at Lammastide (which falls at the halfway point between the summer solstice and autumn – September equinox). I pray that at St Milburga’s, Church Stretton and St Walburga’s Plowden we can celebrate an annual Loaf Mass, asking God for his Blessing upon the harvest. This is followed by the thanksgiving of the harvest festival normally celebrated at Michaelmas – the Mass of St Michael’s at the end of September.
In the Catholic calendar there are other days such as ‘Rogation Days’ and ‘Ember Days’ attached to the seasons and the land (rarely observed). Rogation Days were days of prayer and of fasting, instituted by the Church to appease God's anger at humanity's transgressions, to ask protection in calamities, and to obtain a good and bountiful harvest (the name comes from the English form of the Latin rogatio, which comes from the verb rogare, which means “’o ask’). The major Rogation day coincided with the spring planting on the 25th April, and there were minor days which were Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday immediately prior to Ascension Thursday. The day was marked by gathering in the parish church and reciting the litany of the saints, as soon after Our Lady was invoked, then a procession would proceed around the boundaries of the parish (blessing the entire parish) whilst repeating the Litany of saints, or supplementing it with gradual psalms. Then all would gather in the church to celebrate the Rogation Mass.
Ember days were celebrated four times a year, and were tied to the changing of the seasons, and liturgical cycles of the Church. The ember days are the Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays following the First Sunday of Lent (spring), following the Feast of Pentecost (summer), after the third Sunday of September (autumn) and after the Feast of St Lucy (13th December – winter).
As the Western world has become more industrialised, such days as Lammas, Rogation, and Ember Days have become less ‘relevant’ being focused as they are on the changing seasons and agriculture. However they are a good way of keeping us in touch with nature and to remind us that the Church's liturgical calendar is tied to the changing seasons. And through these days of fasting, abstinence and prayer we are reminded to thank God for the gifts of nature; it teaches us to value and to make use of these fruits in moderation, and to be mindful and to assist the needy.
Let us rediscover and make use of the richness of the Church’s Traditions to ensure that faith and life are fully integrated. Here in Shropshire I pray that we can reintroduce some of these days to remind us that “…in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).