Altar with violet cloth for the season of Advent, prepared for the celebration of "Rorate Mass", in which Rorate Caeli is sung
|Other name(s)||Rorate Caeli|
Rorate coeli (or Rorate Caeli), from the Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 45:8) in the Vulgate, are the opening words of a text used in Catholic and, less frequently, Protestant liturgy. It is also known as The Advent Prose or by the first words of its English translation, "Drop down ye heavens from above."
It is frequently sung as a plainsong at Mass and in the Divine Office during Advent where it gives expression to the longings of Patriarchs and Prophets, and symbolically of the Church, for the coming of the Messiah. Throughout Advent it occurs daily as the versicle and response after the hymn at Vespers.
℣ Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum
(Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just)
℟ Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem"
(Let the earth be opened and send forth a Saviour").
The Rorate Mass got its proper name from the first word of the Introit (Entrance antiphon): "Rorate caeli désuper et nubes pluant justum". "Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just". We know Gaudete and Laetare Sunday which also got their names from the Introit. Before the liturgical changes post-Vatican II this Mass was celebrated very early in the morning on all Saturdays. In some areas it was celebrated on several or even all weekdays during Advent (The Votive Mass of Our Lady in Advent).
The Rorate Mass is a Votive Mass in honor of the Blessed Mother for the season of Advent. It has a long tradition in the Catholic Church, especially in German-speaking countries.  The Masses had to begin relatively in the morning when it was still dark due to winter-time and were said by candlelight.
The text is also used:
- as the Introit for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, for Wednesday in Ember Week, for the feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and for votive Masses of the Blessed Virgin during Advent;
- as a versicle in the first responsory of Tuesday in the first week of Advent;
- as the first antiphon at Lauds for the Tuesday preceding Christmas and the second antiphon at Matins of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin;
- in the second responsory for Friday of the third week of Advent and in the fifth responsory in Matins of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin.
Drop down, ye heavens from above
and let the skies pour down righteousness.
In the Book of Hymns (Edinburgh, 1910), p. 4, W. Rooke-Ley translates the text in connection with the O Antiphons:
Mystic dew from heaven Unto earth is given:
Break, O earth, a Saviour yield -- Fairest flower of the field.
The Introit plain-song may be found in the various editions of the Roman Gradual and the Solesmes "Liber Usualis", p. 125. Under the heading, "Prayer of the Churches of France during Advent", Dom Guéranger (Liturgical Year, Advent tr., Dublin, 1870, pp. 155–6) gives it as an antiphon to each of a series of prayers ("Ne irascaris ", "Peccavimus", "Vide Domine", "Consolamini") expressive of penitence, expectation, comfort, and furnishes the Latin text and an English rendering of the Prayer. The Latin text and a different English rendering are also given in the Baltimore "Manual of Prayers" (pp. 603–4). A plain-song setting of the "Prayer", or series of prayers, is given in the Solesmes "Manual of Gregorian Chant" (Rome-Tournai, 1903, 313-5) in plain-song notation, and in a slightly simpler form in modern notation in the "Roman Hymnal" (New York, 1884, pp. 140–3), as also in "Les principaux chants liturgiques" (Paris, 1875, pp. 111–2) and "Recueil d'anciens et de nouveaux cantiques notés" (Paris, 1886, pp. 218–9).
This text forms the basis for the hymn “O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf.”
|Roráte caéli désuper,
et núbes plúant jústum.
|Drop down ye heavens, from above,
and let the skies pour down righteousness:
Ne irascáris Dómine,
Be not wroth very sore, O Lord,
Peccávimus, et fácti súmus tamquam immúndus nos,
We have sinned, and are as an unclean thing,
Víde Dómine afflictiónem pópuli túi,
Behold, O Lord, the affliction of thy people
Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord,
Consolámini, consolámini, pópule méus:
Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people,
An excerpt of Rorate Coeli sung in Latin
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In addition to traditional plainsong, musical settings of the Rorate coeli have been composed by amongst others, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1572), Jacob Handl (1586), William Byrd (1605} and Heinrich Schütz (1639). A setting of the English text, Drop down ye heavens, was written by Judith Weir in 1983 and first performed by the choir of Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge at their annual Advent Carol Service.
"Rorate Mass" is, originally, the name for a votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin in Advent, named by its introit (the same Rorate coeli as above). As such, its liturgical color is white. It is a tradition to celebrate such Rorate Masses in the early morning (before sunrise) on Advent weekdays, accompanied by candle light in an otherwise dark church. In the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, it is often replaced by a Mass with the liturgical texts of the corresponding Advent weekday (consequently with violet vestments), or possibly the day's saint, but with the rest of the Rorate Mass traditions.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rorate Mass.|
- Rorate Mass tradition in Poland
- Catholic Encyclopedia article
- Choral Wiki article
- MIDI, MP3, and Gregorian Chant score
- "ChoralWiki - Category:Works in Latin - R". www1.cpdl.org. Choral Public Domain Library. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
- "Drop Down, Ye Heavens, from Above". www.halleonard.com. Hal Leonard Corporation. Retrieved 5 January 2015.