Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Saturday, 25 April 2015

The Greater Litanies. 25 April. The Lesser Litanies. Rogation Days. Litany Of The Saints.

Roman Text taken from The Saint Andrew Daily Missal.

Italic Text, Illustrations and Captions taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia,
unless otherwise stated.

The Station is at Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome.

Violet Vestments.

File:The Ancient Custom of Blessing the Fields on Rogation Sunday at Hever, Kent - - 556094.jpg

The Ancient Custom of Blessing the Fields,
Rogation Sunday, Hever, Kent , England.
Photo: 9 February 1967.
Source: From
Author: Ray Trevena.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Church celebrates, today (25 April), two Solemnities, which have nothing in common: The Greater Litanies, so called on account of their Roman origin, and the Feast of Saint Mark, which is of later date. The word "Litany" means "Supplication".

In ancient Rome, on 25 April, used to be celebrated the pagan feast of Robigalia. It consisted, principally, of a Procession, which, leaving the City by the Flaminian Gate, went to the Milvian Bridge and ended in a suburban Sanctuary situated on the Claudian Way.

There, a ewe was sacrificed in honour of a god or goddess of the name Robigo (god or goddess of frost). The Greater Litany was the substitution of a Christian, for a pagan, ceremony. Its itinerary is known to us by a convocation of Saint Gregory the Great. It is, approximately, the same as that of the pagan Procession.

All the Faithful in Rome betook themselves to the Church of Saint Laurence-in-Lucina, the nearest to the Flaminian Gate. Leaving by this Gate, the Procession made a Station at Saint Valentine's, crossed the Milvian Bridge, and branched off to the Left towards the Vatican.

After halting at a Cross, it entered the Basilica of Saint Peter for the celebration of The Holy Mysteries.

This Litany is recited throughout the Church to keep away calamities, and to draw down The Blessing of God on the harvest. "Vouchsafe to grant us to preserve the fruits of the Earth, we Pray Thee, hear us," is sung by the Procession through the countryside.

The whole Mass shows what assiduous Prayer may obtain, when, in the midst of our adversities (Collects, Offertory), we have recourse with confidence to Our Father in Heaven (Epistle, Gospel, Communion).

If The Feast of Saint Mark is Transferred, The Litanies are not Transferred, unless they fall on Easter Sunday. In which case, they are Transferred to the following Tuesday.

Litany of the Saints.
Available on YouTube at


The Litany of the Saints is used in connection with:

Holy Mass on The Greater Litanies (25 April);
The Lesser Litanies (Rogation Days);
Holy Saturday;
The Vigil of Pentecost;
Masses of Ordination before the Conferring of Major Orders.

On Saint Mark's and Rogation Days, if the Procession is held, The Litany is preceded by the Antiphon, "Exurge, Domine," (Psalm XLIII. 26), and all Invocations are sung by The Cantors and repeated in full by The Choir [i.e., "Doubled"]. 

If the Procession cannot be held, the Invocations are not repeated.

On the Vigils of Easter and Pentecost, the Invocations marked with an asterisk (*) in The Missal are omitted; all the remaining Invocations are repeated, either there be a Font and a Procession from the Baptistry or not.

At Masses of Ordination, only the first five Invocations are repeated.

Litany of the Saints
at the Funeral of Pope Saint John Paul II.
Available on YouTube at

Rogation Days are, in The Calendar of The Western Church, observed on 25 April (the Major Rogation) and the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday immediately preceding Ascension Thursday (the Minor Rogations).

The first Rogation, the Greater Litanies, has been compared to the ancient Roman religious festival of the Robigalia, a ritual involving prayer and sacrifice for crops, held on 25 April. The first Rogation is also observed on 25 April, and a direct connection has sometimes been asserted, with the "Christian substitute" following the same processional route in Rome. If Easter falls on 24 April or on this day (the latest possible date for Easter), the Rogations are transferred to the following Tuesday.

The second set of Rogation Days, the Lesser Litanies or Rogations, introduced about 470 A.D. by Bishop Mamertus of Vienne and eventually adopted elsewhere, are the three days (Rogation Monday, Rogation Tuesday and Rogation Wednesday) immediately before Ascension Thursday in the Christian Liturgical Calendar.

The word "Rogation" comes from the Latin verb "rogare", meaning "to ask," and was applied to this time of The Liturgical Year because the Gospel reading for the previous Sunday included the passage, "Ask and ye shall receive" (Gospel of John 16:24). The Sunday itself was often called Rogation Sunday, as a result, and marked the start of a three-week period (ending on Trinity Sunday), when Roman Catholic and Anglican Clergy did not Solemnise marriages (two other such periods of marital prohibition also formerly existed, one beginning on the first Sunday in Advent and continuing through the Octave of Epiphany, or 13 January, and the other running from Septuagesima until the Octave of Easter, the Sunday after Easter). In England, Rogation Sunday is called "Chestnut Sunday".

The Faithful typically observed The Rogation Days by Fasting in preparation to Celebrate The Ascension, and farmers often had their crops Blessed by a Priest at this time. Violet Vestments are worn at The Rogation Litany and its associated Mass, regardless of what colour was worn at the ordinary Liturgies of the day.

A common feature of Rogation Days, in former times, was the Ceremony of "Beating the Bounds", in which a Procession of Parishioners, led by the Minister, Churchwarden, and Choirboys, would proceed around the boundary of their Parish and Pray for its protection in the forthcoming year. This was also known as 'Gang-Day'.

The reform of The Liturgical Calendar for Latin Roman Catholics, in 1969, delegated the establishment of Rogation Days, along with Ember Days, to the Episcopal Conferences. Their observance in the Latin Church subsequently declined, but the observance has revived somewhat, since 1988, (when Pope Saint John Paul II issued his Decree Ecclesia Dei Adflicta) and especially since 2007 (when Pope Benedict XVI issued his Motu Proprio, called "Summorum Pontificum"), when the use of older Rites was encouraged. Churches of The Anglican Communion reformed their Liturgical Calendar in 1976, but continue to recognise the three days before Ascension as an optional observance.

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