|At the darkest
time of the year, we are reminded of the Light to come with the
tradition of Advent Rorate Masses, whose name derives from the first
words of the Introit, Isaias 45:8:
desuper, et nubes pluant justum, aperiatur terra, et germinet
Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds
rain the just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Saviour.
These Masses are
devoted to Our Lady as the bearer of God, so the priest's vestments are
white instead of the violet typically worn in Advent. The only light
allowed is candlelight -- often from a great plenitude of candles --
and because the Mass is offered before dawn, it begins in near
darkness, becoming increasingly light-filled with the rising of the Sun
-- a lovely and dramatic symbolism of our being in darkness but
awaiting the coming of the Son Who'll arrive at the midnight between
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
The Lesson will consist of Isaias 7:10-15, which includes the beautiful
prophecy, "the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin
shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.
He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and
to choose the good."
The Gospel will be Luke 1:26-38, which recounts how the Archangel
Gabriel met with Our Lady and told her, "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast
found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt
bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be
great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord. And
of his kingdom there shall be no end" -- to which Mary uttered her
fiat, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to
Thus begins the earthly story of our redemption, our hope in life
everlasting -- certainly something to highly honor as we await
(which are also known as "Golden Masses") are typically offered on the
Saturdays of Advent, but one
might find them offered as well on Advent weekdays. Local practices
might see the Mass offered on the seven or nine days before Christmas,
or daily before Christmas unless a higher-ranking feast pre-empts it.
Back when the
Western world was Catholic and our co-religionists had the luxury of
almost always living close to the churches they attended, families
would process to church in the pre-dawn's darkness, bearing lit candles
or torches to light their