Darkness, candlelight, stillness, silence and simple plainsong singing are the main ingredients of our lovely Advent Rorate Mass at St Chrysostom’s. We’re encouraging other churches to pick up this tradition!
The powerful symbol of light in the darkness pervades the whole worship. It’s a beautiful Mass greatly valued by those who attend, and very much part of our Advent worship.
The Rorate Mass takes its name from the first words of the ancient Advent antiphon Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum or, in the English version we use, Drop down ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness.
The Mass has its origins in central, German speaking Europe. There, just before dawn, a Mass in honour of Mary would be celebrated by candlelight, parishioners walking to church carrying lanterns. In this form it still continues, while in other places, like at St Chrysostom’s we have adapted the area for our church community.
In an internet group a person commented to us that it sounds lovely “but would be for large churches with lots of money…” Well, our Rorate Mass is a quiet lovely celebration drawing about a dozen or so people, and we’re not wealthy at St Chrysostom’s!
The essential ingredient is candles (one for each person) and additional ones for reading at the altar and lectern (sometimes we ‘cheat’ and an ipad is used). Also needed is simple plainsong singing and gentle quietness. The Eucharist is ‘of the Virgin Mary’ so appropriate readings and prayers for Mary are chosen, and white vestments are used.
We try to have a singer from among us who can sing ‘Drop down ye heavens,’ we have a simple responsorial psalm and two simple plainsong hymns. Ideally we have one or two good singers who can give a lead.
So we’d like to invite and encourage smaller churches to consider using or adapting this beautiful yet simple Eucharist for their worship schedules in Advent. You would not be disappointed!