Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Rorate Masses

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:

Rorate, caeli, desuper, et nubes pluant justum, aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem.

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 Masses are offered before dawn, they begin 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 thy word."

Thus begins the earthly story of our redemption, our hope in life everlasting -- certainly something to highly honor as we await Christmas.

Rorate Masses (which are also known as "Golden Masses") are typically offered in the pre-dawn hours 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 before the Sun rose, bearing lit candles or torches to light their way.

Please enjoy William Byrd's setting for this Mass's Introit:

Rorate cœli désuper, et nubes
pluant justum: aperiátur terra, et
gérminet Salvatórem.
Benedixísti, Dómine, terram
tuam: avertísti capivitátem
Jacob. Glória Patri, et Fílio,
et Spirítui Sancto. Sicut erat in
princípio, et nunc, et semper, et
in sæcula sæculórum. Amen.
— Roráte cœli désuper
Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above,
and let the clouds rain the Just: let the earth
be opened and bud forth a Savior.
Lord, Thou hast blessed Thy land: Thou
hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and
to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the
beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world
without end. Amen.
— Drop down dew

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