Monday, December 21, 2009


Yesterday at Mass they did a chant that I love, the "Rorate Caeli."

Anyone who loves early music, the greatest thing you can do is go to Latin Mass, which is what I have been doing for two years now. It is to the point with me where the music is starting to get into my soul, and the chants are beginning to take on associations for me the way they did for people years ago. I hear the "Rorate Caeli" melody and it means this time of year. I hear the "Vidi Aquam" and it brings thoughts of spring because that is what you hear at Easter time.

There is something about that "Rorate Caeli" melody I love. "Rorate Caeli" translates to "Drop down, dew, from heaven.

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One.

Be not angry, O Lord, and remember no longer our iniquity: behold the city of thy sanctuary is become a desert, Zion is made a desert. Jerusalem is desolate, the house of our holiness and of thy glory, where our fathers praised thee.

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One.

We have sinned, and we are become as one unclean, and we have all fallen as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast crushed us by the hand of our iniquity.

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One.

And it goes from there. I think it comes from Isaiah. If you want a full translation, which I can totally understand, you can find it here.

Part of the beauty of that chant is how it goes on and on. I had it on the brain all day yesterday after hearing it. It is traditional to sing the "Rorate Caeli" on the fourth Sunday of Advent.

The "Rorate Caeli" is included on the "From the Vaults of Westminster Cathedral" CD pictured above. It's funny, until I went looking for a picture I could not think where I had heard this recently. That is where! There was a lot on that CD that I love but the "Rorate Caeli" got me especially.

It is so strange how a melody can be so simple and still be so moving and give you such a sense of timelessness. Once in a while books come out that try to explain why music affects the human mind. I always avoid those books. I do not want this figured out!

I love the mystery.


  1. We chanted one of the "O Antiphons" yesterday before each carol in Lessons and Carols. Very satisfying. And we sang a (contemporary) setting of "Drop down, ye heavens".

  2. Ward, I'll bet your Lessons and Carols was wonderful. I have been to a few of those at St. Paul's. They were always beautiful.