“Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum” (Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just)
On Friday afternoon we drove the three hours from Jacksonville to Tampa through bouts of pouring rain, on Saturday we rose before dawn driving through the dark, saturated streets of Tampa looking for our destination. Once we found the campus, we made our way between the puddles to the beautiful new chapel at the center of the Jesuit High School in Tampa. On this day before the third Sunday of advent… a kind of midway point towards Christmas, we had gathered to celebrate a special votive Mass in honor of Our Lady. Even though it was cold and it was wet, and initially I wasn’t pleased with the dampness… as the Mass started, I began to feel that it was as if God had chosen this gentle drizzle of rain as a means of resting His hands upon us… and in some mysterious way, it was starting to feel like the veil was beginning to thin…
“Drop down dew, ye heavens from above, and let the clouds rain the Just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Saviour.”
When we finally entered the dark church, each of us was handed a candle that we were to light, and as more families arrived and we filled the pews, the dim light of the candles grew… there was a specialness to the glow, but there was something lacking. It felt like it wasn’t enough. Sure, the flicker of the candles was sufficient enough so that we could see the beauty of the new church, but it wasn’t enough to drive away all of the shadows… and even though it was comfortable, it wasn’t enough to warm the shiver from our bones… the candles by themselves were lacking. It was missing a vital element; it wasn’t enough to give meaning to our souls…
Yes, our original intention was that we had come to pay homage to the Blessed Virgin, but ultimately, we had gathered to offer praise to Our Heavenly Father for the gift of Our Blessed Mother… who in fact was the earth that opened with her yes, so that the Holy Spirit could drop down upon her like the dew and bud forth a Savior.
We embarked in this journey, not only to satisfy God by showing our love for His Mother, it was also because deep down we know that man has always longed for more… There is an ache in our souls that we still carry because of the wight of original sin. That ache that cannot be filled by the things of the world…even after all of these thousands of years of searching… we are longing for more...We are still seeking out our ‘messiah’. Even in this day and age when so many have lost their way and turned away from God and His grande design for man… we are still longing… still searching for the Truth … and whether we realize it or not... we remain, like those wise men of old… still actively searching for Christ.
Rorate Caeli, is a special Mass… a step out of the ‘ordinary’ advent journey, and because we are celebrating the ever pure and holy Blessed Virgin, the vestments today are white instead of the usual advent purple. The Mass takes place during this point in advent to remind the faithful, that without Christ’s birth, without Christ’s Light… the world would have remained in darkness. And as the church becomes brightened by the rising sun outside, we are reminded that each of us is brightened by the Light of Christ inside. There is a joy that comes from this realization that is able to reach through to the very soul...to fill that longing… but, you have to be receptive to it… you have to allow yourself to sit in the shadows and be surrounded by darkness for the reality of it to penetrate your senses.
The readings and prayers of the Mass foretell of the prophecy of the Virgin who would bear a Son named Emmanuel. These readings call on all to open, not only the gates of their own hearts, but those of societies, to Christ Our Savior. Not only are we to allow Him to enter, but we are to allow Him to reign as King as well. During this time we are petitioning for the grace to receive eternal life by the merits of the Incarnation and saving Resurrection of Our Lord. Since this a High Mass there was incense and chanting. Combine the mystery of the darkness, the candlelight, the fragrance and the smoke of the incense with the traditional Latin being sung and it soon felt like the veil between the faithful and heaven had drastically thinned.
Even though we did not merit it… being there felt like we had been given a grace… because of God’s goodness, we had been allowed a peek… a small wonderful glimpse into the holy of holys…. into the mystery of the incarnation of the Lord. Because our journey began in darkness, we got to experience the way Christ is the Light that spreads across the world… for a moment we were removed from the cares of the world and were able to focus solely on Christ’s coming birth. It was an absolutely beautiful way to deepen our advent journey, and it was well worth all the extra driving and planning it took to get there. And because God is so good and ever loving, He allowed for us to slip away, through the wonder of this Holy Rorate Caeli Mass, and be transported out of realm of the everyday… allowing us to be transported from the darkness into the light. And by doing so, He allowed us to experience heaven’s beautiful embrace.
Below is a copy of the sermon that St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote and was read to us by Fr. Vincent Capuanoat, S.J. at the Mass. It is absolutely AMAZING! Enjoy!
If we devoutly celebrate the coming of the Lord we do no more than that which we ought to do, for He has not only come to us, He has come for us, Who has no need of our own goods. The enormity of the grace which He gives us demonstrates quite clearly our previous indigence. For if one judges the gravity of a disease from what it costs to heal it, one is forced to recognize the amount of disease to heal from the amount of medicine to which one must have recourse.
Why would there be a diversity of graces if there was not a diversity of needs? It is difficult to enumerate in a single discourse all the miseries to we which are subjected, but three are now clear in my spirit as needs which are common to all and which one may in some way behold as our main miseries.
There is not a single person amongst us who does not seem to have, at some time, the need for counsel, aid, and assistance, for that triple need is general to the whole human race; and for all that we are, living in the shadow of death, in a weak body and under the spell of temptation, if we wish to seriously reflect, we shall see that we are the victims of this triple evil.Truly we are weak to seduction, indolent in our action, powerless to resist.If we wish to discern between good and evil, we always mistake ourselves; and if we wish to do good, we are beaten and vanquished.This was what made the advent of the Lord necessary and what made His presence a need for all men in the state in which they were. God wishes that, by the abundance of His grace, He not only comes but inhabits within us by Faith, to dissipate our shadows by the impact of His light; He wishes to remain within us to aid our feebleness, He resists with us to cover and protect our fragility.Truly, if He is in us, what will induce us to err? If He is with us, what will we not be able to do in Him who fortifies us? He is a faithful counselor, who cannot deceive us or be deceived, he is a powerful aid who prevents fatigue, an efficient protector who may put Satan himself under our feet and annihilate his power, because He is nothing less than the Wisdom of God Himself, who may, when he wishes to do so, instruct the ignorant.He is the virtue of God, who supports unceasingly those who fail and takes them away from any danger. My brethren, every time we have the need for counsel, let us appeal to this Master; in all our actions, let us call this powerful aide; in all assaults which we must stand, let us place the salvation of our souls in the hands of this sure Defender.He is come to the world precisely to find Himself within men, with men, and for men, to dissipate our shadows, to alleviate our strains, and to deliver us from the dangers which imperil us.