Rorate Coeli

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Rorate coeli
Rorate coeli
Medieval manuscript of the Gregorian chant "Rorate Coeli"
Type Mass
Classification Roman Catholic
Scripture (Isaiah 45:8)
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 during Advent. 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").

Before the liturgical changes that followed the Second Vatican Council, 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 Virgin Mary for the season of Advent. It has a long tradition in the Catholic Church, especially in German-speaking areas.[1] The Masses had to begin relatively in the morning when it was still dark due to winter-time and were said by candlelight.[1]


The Introit Rorate Coeli in square notation, the melody in the sound file above.

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.

In the Anglican Communion, the Rorate Coeli is included in the music for Advent (735 in the English Hymnal and 501 in the New English Hymnal) and is translated as:

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.”


Latin English
Roráte caéli désuper,
et núbes plúant jústum.

Drop down ye heavens, from above,
and let the skies pour down righteousness:

Ne irascáris Dómine,
ne ultra memíneris iniquitátis:
ecce cívitas Sáncti fácta est desérta:
Síon desérta fácta est:
Jerúsalem desoláta est:
dómus sanctificatiónis túæ et glóriæ túæ,
ubi laudavérunt te pátres nóstri.

Be not wroth very sore, O Lord,
neither remember iniquity for ever:
behold, the holy city is a wilderness:
Sion is a wilderness,
Jerusalem a desolation:
the house of your sanctification and your glory,
where thee our fathers praised.

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 are as an unclean thing,
and we all do fade as a leaf:
and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away;
thou hast hid thy face from us:
and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

Víde Dómine 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.

Behold, O Lord, the affliction of thy people,
and send forth Him who is to come;
send forth the Lamb, the ruler of the earth,
from Petra of the desert to the mount of the daughter of Sion:
that He may take away the yoke of our captivity.


Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord,
and my servant whom I have chosen;
that ye may know me and believe me:
I, even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no Savior:
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

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.

Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people,
my salvation shall not tarry:
why wilt thou waste away in sadness?
why hath sorrow seized thee?
Fear not, for I will save thee:
for I am the Lord thy God,
the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.


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).[2] Settings of the English text, Drop down ye heavens, have been written by Judith Weir (1983 and first performed by the choir of Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge at their annual Advent Carol Service) and Andrew Cusworth.[3]

Rorate Mass[edit]

Rorate mass in Prague Cathedral, Czech Republic

"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.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ "ChoralWiki - Category:Works in Latin - R". Choral Public Domain Library. Retrieved 5 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "Drop Down, Ye Heavens, from Above". Hal Leonard Corporation. Retrieved 5 January 2015. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "article name needed". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.