by Sister Meredith, O.C.D.
About ten years ago during Advent, I heard this hymn for the first time, “Rorate Caeli”, and although I had no clue about its meaning, something stirred within me. I felt all my emotions move with the somber, yet hopeful chant as the notes moved up and down the solfege. At once I experienced the darkness of a world without Jesus and that my sins would truly keep me captive. Yet I felt the hope and expectation that He would be coming soon and all would be set aright.
I searched for the words of this ancient hymn and found that it was written from the Book of Isaiah, 45:8, to reflect the sorrowful soul in need of the cleansing waters of redemption. Rorate Caeli is composed of four verses with the refrain, “Drop down ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness.” These words are typically used for the entrance chant at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the 4th week of Advent as Holy Mother Church encourages us to wait with expectation for the imminent coming of our Savior.
Here is my unofficial translation of the verses in contemporary language, like a soul conversing with God…
God, we have sinned and we need you.
Please help us, we are in pain and are suffering.
We are held captive by our sinfulness and cannot get out of this on our own.
Help us, Lord, please help us!
Peace, peace, my people.
Do not despair.
Do not be afraid, I am here.
Your God, your Redeemer, your Father.
I will save you.
It’s been said that people who experience Advent well are those who know they need a Savior. Christmas doesn’t just come without our recognition of our captivity and need for repentance. When we realize this, Jesus’ birth becomes more glorious, more authentic, more salvific. May your Christmas be so