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