Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Rorate Mass

Roráte, cæli, désuper, et nubes pluant iustum....
Cieux, répandez votre rosée ; que des nuées descende le salut....
Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness...

A stunning slideshow was passed along to me by my family in California.  It was created by their parish church, St. Stephen the First Martyr, in Sacramento and is up on their website.  St. Stephen's is a Roman Catholic church that uses the "la liturgie romaine de 1962"  also known as the traditional Latin Mass.

Some background.  Since the 1960's in all countries the Mass is usually celebrated in the local language.  When I was growing up in a small town near Seattle my parish church, St. Michael's, had mass exclusively in English though, as I recall, our priest was Irish.  At my Catholic high school, Latin was a required subject for all the students (all girls by the way) but never used during Wednesday services in the priory's chapel.

These days I get the impression (not based on any empirical evidence) that Latin is coming back.  In my parish church, Sainte Elisabeth de Hongrie here in Versailles the Mass is in French (and in Portuguese)  but some of the prayers and songs are in Latin.  There is one church here in Versailles called La Chapelle de Notre Dame des Armées which like St. Stephen's exclusively uses the Latin rite and has 3 masses a day during the week and 5 on Sunday.

So Latin is far from being a dead language as far as the Church is concerned and its use is not confined to the Church hierarchy but is the liturgical language of choice of Catholic communities all over the world.  And it must be said that the Latin Mass is something to see at least once in one's lifetime.  It is simply beautiful - a feast for the senses and a way to worship that takes one out of the ordinary into the world of the extraordinary.

This slideshow from Saint Stephen's captures that mysterious beauty.  Here they are celebrating what is is called the Rorate Mass.  This mass is traditionally celebrated during Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas) by candlelight.  Why?   Well, these days because it is hauntingly beautiful but in a previous era:
The celebration by candle light had originally a more practical reason. According to the Missal of 1570 no Mass could be said after 12.00 Noon. On the other hand, people had to go to work in the morning. Also the Rorate Masses were celebrated in a more solemn form and therefore would last longer. For these reasons the Masses had to begin relatively early in the morning when it was still dark due to winter-time.
The accompanying music is the St. Stephen's choir singing Gabriel's Message.


5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful

P Moore said...

Really brings back memories when Latin was commonly used in Masses. I remember as a child memorizing many prayers in the Latin language.

Rosy said...

Like you, I grew up going to school with the nuns. Everything was a sin until the Church said it wasn't anymore - like eating meat on Friday (so what happened to all those people who went to Hell for that once that church commandment got cancelled out ??)Funny how the Latin mass became grounds for heresy once the Church decided it shouldn't be that way anymore. Never could understand it. I rather liked the Latin I studied. I like this post!

lymphomajourney said...

Something magic in the ritual and the beauty.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

I find that I kinda wish they would bring the Latin back as the standard.

It is so damn beautiful and because it really emphasizes the international nature of the church. When we lost Latin we lost a common language. Now when my folks come from the US and go to Mass here they don't understand the liturgy because they don't speak French. Same goes for my French family when they visit the US.

I looked at the 1962 missal my family sent me and there isn't that much to memorize.

Victoria