Rorate Sunday

Desert dew 

A little study on my part has revealed that yesterday, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, has been sometimes called Rorate Sunday in times past and even present. This is to be distinguished from Rorate Masses, which refer to Votive Masses of Our Lady during the whole of the Advent season.  (Well you don’t see many of those around these days, do you?)

These, like many things, appear to have gone out of season in these last few decades or more, when we have been compelled to become purely sociological or environmentalist “Catholics”.

The rorate bit comes from the first word of the introit for yesterday’s Mass, just as in the cases of its more famous colleagues, Gaudete and Laetare Sundays. Those two are noticed more perhaps because rose/pink vestments may be worn as a sort of slight relief from the penitential purple of Advent or Lent. Not that too many priests/”ordained ministers” do wear them, of course.

The introit for yesterday goes like this:

Rorate caeli desuper,
et nubes pluant justum:
aperiatur terra, et germinet salvatorem.

[Drop dew, you heavens, from above,
and let the clouds rain down the just one.

Let the earth open and bud forth the Saviour.]

It’s from Isaiah.

The readings for yesterday’s Mass were  quite solemn – they are to do with prophecies about the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem and our Lady’s expectancy. But they suggest that it’s really going to happen very shortly, big time, as they say these days. Earth is to respond to heaven’s generous will and bring forth her Saviour, clothed in her own elemental flesh and blood, any tick of the clock now.

There is a hymn used in the various offices of Lent, the liturgy of the hours, and elsewhere, that repeats the rorate antiphon between verses, and it may also be sung during the Rorate Masses. It’s extremely penitential, as Advent is meant to be, but it then calls on the Lord’s great compassion, and finally assures us of salvation and the new life that Christmas will eventually bring about for us: I will save you! Fear not!

Rorate caeli desuper,
et nubes pluant justum

Peccávimus, et fácti súmus tamquam immúndus nos,
et cecídimus quasi fólium univérsi:
et iniquitátes nóstræ quasi véntus abstulérunt nos:
abscondísti faciem túam a nóbis,
et allisísti nos in mánu iniquitátis nóstræ.

We have sinned, and we have become like one unclean,
and we have all fallen like a leaf:
and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away:
you have hidden your face from us,
and crushed us by the hand of our iniquity.

Rorate etc.

Víde, Domine, afflictiónem pópuli túi,
et mítte quem missúrus es:
emítte Agnum dominatórem térræ,
de Pétra desérti ad móntem fíliæ Síon:
ut áuferat ípse júgum captivitátis nóstræ.

See, O Lord, the affliction of your people,
and send him whom you promised to send:
send forth the Lamb, the ruler of the earth,
from Petra of the desert to the mount of the daughter of Sion:
that he himself may take off the yoke of our captivity.

Rorate etc

Consolámini, consolámini, pópule méus:
cito véniet sálus túa:
quare mæróre consúmeris,
quia innovávit te dólor?
Salvábo te, nóli timére,
égo enim sum Dóminus Déus túus,
Sánctus Israël, Redémptor túus.

Be comforted, be comforted, my people:
your salvation shall speedily come: why do you waste away in sadness, why does sorrow seize you?
I will save you; fear not:
for I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your redeemer.

Rorate etc.

I recommend listening. The French monks’ chanting is wonderful.


About GC

Poor sinner.
This entry was posted in Advent, Biblical Reflection, Catholic Culture, Catholic Music, Catholic Prayers, Devotion, Hymns, Latin, Liturgy, Music, Sacred Scripture, Spiritual Life. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Rorate Sunday

  1. kathleen says:

    This is beautiful, GC. And the chanting is indeed just wonderful.

    How fortunate are those who can attend a Rorate candlelit Mass this Advent! If I had any offered round where I live, or even if there were one a couple of hours’ drive away, not even wild horses would be able to keep me from getting to it. But nope, we have nothing as heavenly and traditional as that out here “in the sticks”! 😦

    On Brian Williams’ great blog, “Liturgy Guy”, he has put up some lovely photos of a Rorate Mass celebrated in Charlotte, North Carolina.
    Father Z has some other lovely pics on his blog too of one that he celebrated.

    Fitting and holy ways to prepare for the Nativity of the Lord. But that as you so rightly say, they very sadly “appear to have gone out of season in these last few decades or more” in most places.
    Why is that, I wonder?
    Why has so much that was holy, reverent, magnificent, sublime, etc., really all the best that “human hands can offer” to give loving homage to Our Lord and King, been replaced with so much that is banal, trite, or just simply mediocre in our time?
    How fortunate were those Catholics who knew and lived in a pre-Vatican II Church where the entire Liturgy was a prayer that rose up before God “like a cloud of incense” (Psalm 141:2).


  2. Robert says:

    St Leo XIII vision of Satan and the permission to attempt to destroy the Church – that’s the reason for the loss of holy, reverent, magnificient, sublime by mediocre!
    It isn’t possible to reverse this because this requires re teaching an entire generation! If interested it is worth looking at the Reformation in England the attempt under Queen Mary to reverse the damage that had been done! Within a few years the Faith and habits of a generations was destroyed within 10-20 years.


  3. GC says:

    Dear kathleen, I myself had never heard of the Rorate Masses, these Advent Votive Masses of Our Lady, until I read a bit for this post. I was born in the late 50s and they were not in evidence in my earliest years.

    As you say Father Z wrote on them earlier this month and had some very nice pics. And as you say also, they were too beautiful and reverent (and early!), so they just had to go post-VatII, if they had not gone already.

    I have to admit I am not at all opposed to a bit of sociologyism and environmentalism. Let those Catholics who are good at that sort of thing just get on with it, but watch it. However, at the same time, let us have our beautiful traditions inspired by Our Lord’s life and the Scriptures. They can affect the lives of so many in only positive ways. I even understand now that Simbang Gabi, the Cockcrow Masses in the Philippines in the nine days just before Christmas were probably originally Rorate Masses. These pre-dawn Masses are still very much loved by the Filipino people.


  4. kathleen says:

    @ GC

    No, I had never heard about Rorate Masses either in those reverent bygone days of our earliest years! I discovered them thanks to the Catholic internet! 😉 Although I do remember the common use of lots of candlelight with its soft golden glow, so much nicer than glaring electric lighting.

    Interesting about the Cockcrow Masses in the Phiippines probably originating from Rorate Masses. The strong faith of these wonderful people is truly inspiring, isn’t it!

    @ Robert

    “St Leo XIII vision of Satan and the permission to attempt to destroy the Church – that’s the reason for the loss of holy, reverent, magnificient, sublime by mediocre!”

    Depending on which date he started off on his evil intent to “destroy the Church”, Satan’s time should be up by now, surely? Though perhaps we start counting 100 years from the 60’s, in which case we are only halfway through the tribulation! For what prior to Vatican II can compare to the terrible destruction in its aftermath under its Spirit? Yes, he has succeeded in physically destroying so much of the beauty of our Catholic churches with the ripping out of altar rails and resurgence of iconoclasm. He destroyed the Mass of the Ages, succeeded in blocking out devotion to Our Blessed Lady, and all holy devotions. He has ruined Catholic education, brought in many un-Catholic ideas ‘borrowed’ from Protestant thinking (including its rebellion to authority) and viciously attacked the Holy Priesthood.

    Yes, he has won many battles and snatched many souls from Christ, but he has not won the war. We may still be weeping bitter tears of regret to see such destruction of our Catholic heritage in the West… but perhaps we are navel-gazing again. Look at other parts of the world: most of Africa is ablaze with the love of Christ and His Church, and growing fast; GC is always telling us encouraging tales about the Faith in Asia; young people everywhere (thanks to Pope Benedict XVI and many traditional new orders) are rediscovering the sublimity of the Tridentine Mass and Catholic traditions once again. All is not lost. We must never lose hope. All crises in the Church are only a blip in the computer of ‘time’ after all.

    In the words from one of the most celebrated poems of St Thérèse of Lisieux we may say:

    Near your divine Heart, I forget all passing things.
    I no longer dread the fears of the night.
    Ah ! Jesus, give me a place in your Heart
    Just for today.”


  5. Robert says:

    For me the following are the key points.
    1/ Leo XIII (understand the Light in the Heavens) all of those encyclicals foregotten or ignored!
    2/ God raised up a GREAT Saint for the Last times St Therese Of Lisieux , French. Parents saintly; Carmelite (Our Lady of Mt Carmel) ; The Little Way which is a masterpiece! The Holy Face which ties directly into the Holy Shroud.
    3/ St Padre Pio , Italian and first priest to have the stigmata. Son of St Francis and who can doubt he was the Face of Holy Poverty in a Church that after 1960 became Political and with worldy asperations.
    4/ World Wars (Global conflict)
    5/ Fatima A Biblical miracle unprecedented at the level of Moses!
    6/ St Michael who defended God against the rebellious angels
    7/ Enthronement of Satan at Vatican (confirmed by Fr Malachy Martin)
    8/ The conclusion of Malachy’s list.
    Satan is of darkness that is SIN and who can doubt the Apostacy of Christendom, Divorce, Fornication, Bestiality, Abortion.
    Absolutely no sign of the Triumph Of Our Lady!
    The Our Father expressly watns Us of Temptation? These inspirations and thoughts that beguile and which are encouraged by this world as inspirations or creative or brain waves but look at the fruits!
    Man doesn’t look through the eyes of Faith! Belief in things unseen. Man has been seduced by naturalism into denying the Messiah.


  6. GC says:

    kathleen, you’re right about the Cockcrow Masses in the Philippines and they remain very popular indeed. Even though they start at 4 or 4:30 in the morning!

    I think we are right about their origin being in the Rorate Masses of Advent, Masses of Our Lady before dawn. The practice of these consecutive Masses early on each of the last 9 days before Christmas, seems to have been a development that occurred in Spain and spread to its overseas possessions. Even to Venezuela! This Salesian parish there is still holding them.

    In the Philippines the priests will wear white vestments for Our Lady and a votive Mass to her will be said. See here for quite a bit of the history of these Masses in the Philippines and Spain.

    kathleen, have you ever heard of the feast of Our Lady of Expectation, on 18 December?

    Neither had I, but it would make a good article next Advent.

    “The ‘grave reasons’ that our ancestors in Spain, Mexico and the Philippines adduced for celebrating these Masses were the same reasons repeated in the Plenary Council of the Philippines (1953). These same reasons apply up to the present time: perseverance of the Filipino nation in the faith and the preservation of our holy religion in this part of the world.”


  7. kathleen says:

    GC @ 2:59

    I’ve just read through your interesting and informative links. May that same “perseverance of the Filipino nation in the faith and the preservation of our holy religion” spread to other countries that are sadly lacking in that strong faith and love of the Filipino Catholics.

    It is such a shame that, having originated here, the Aguinaldo votive Masses at dawn are not offered anywhere round the Granada area anymore! I shall make some enquiries through a traditional priest I know who lives in Madrid to see if any are celebrated there, or anywhere else in Spain for that matter. Then, D.V., I shall have time to lay plans to assist next year. 🙂
    We still have our Misa de Gallo at midnight on Christmas Eve though of course, where the churches are always packed full of fieles dressed up smartly for such a special occasion as Our Lord’s Nativity.

    You are right that not much about the feast of ‘Our Lady of Expectation’ (18th December) has ever been mentioned on Catholic news sites in previous years (as far as I remember), although this year I have read a few lovely articles about the feast on some other Catholic blogs. It is such an endearing title that speaks volumes of Our Blessed Lady’s frame of mind one week before Her Divine Son’s birth, isn’t it?


  8. GC says:

    This is indeed the first time I’ve heard them called the “Aguinaldo Masses”, kathleen. Live and learn on CP&S, certainly.

    The only time I’ve heard of “Aguinaldo” was when hearing about a certain Filipino gentleman, of whom more later.

    I see “aguinaldo” is also a kind of Christmas song sung by musicians who go around the neighbourhood in Caribbean countries, such as Venezuela and Puerto Rico. A one! A two! A one two three four!

    The Filipino gentleman was a revolutionary general and hero (and president!), Emilio Aguinaldo, who in 1899 ordered that the church and convent of the Augustinian Recollects in Malolos (just north of Manila) be burnt down! Charming.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s