Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rorate Coeli

Rorate coeli desuper,
et nubes pluant justum.

Ne irascaris Domine,
ne ultra memineris iniquitatis.
Ecce civitas sancti facta est deserta,
Sion deserta facta est,
Jerusalem desolata est,
domus santificationis tuae
et gloriae tuae,
ubi laudaverunt te patres nostri.

et facti sumus tamquam immundus nos,
et cecidimus quasi folium universi:
et iniquitates nostrae quasi ventus abstulerunt nos:
abscondisti faciem tuam a nobis,
et allisisti nos in manu iniquitatis nostrae.

Vide Domine afflictionem populi tui,
et mitte quem missurus es:
emitte Agnum dominatorem terrae,
de Petra deserti ad montem filiae Sion:
ut auferat ipse iugum captivitatis nostrae.

Consolamini, consolamini,
popule meus,
cito veniet salus tua.
Quare maerore consumeris,
quia innovavit te dolor?
Salvabo te, noli timere,
ego enim sum Dominus Deus tuus,
sanctus Israel, redemptor tuus.

* * *

Drop down dew of heaven from above,
let the clouds rain down the just one.

Do not be angry, Lord,
nor remember further our iniquity.
Behold the holy city has become deserted,
Zion has become deserted,
Jerusalem is desolate,
the home of your sanctification
and your glory,
where our fathers praised you.

We have sinned,
and we have become as if unclean,
and we have fallen like all the leaves,
and our iniquities, like the wind, have borne us away;
you have hidden your face from us,
and have crushed us in the hand of our iniquity.

See, Lord, the affliction of your people,
and send the one who is to be sent:
send forth the Lamb, master of the earth,
from the deserted Rock to the mount of the daughters of Zion:
that he himself may remove the yoke of our captivity.

Be comforted, be comforted,
my people,
swiftly comes your salvation.
Why are you consumed by grief,
because sorrow has altered you?
I will save you, do not fear,
for I am the Lord your God,
holy Israel, your redeemer.

* * *

This is the chant we used to sing when I was in boarding school during the novena before Christmas. A recording of it can be found on YouTube here. I have to say that I think we sounded much better when we sang it. You have to understand how chant works to do it right.

The translation is my own, though I don't care who borrows it. To me, the important thing is that these things are done properly, as they almost never are. I even found a mistranslation in the Adoremus Hymnal the other day!

I have never found anything that puts into words the longing of Advent better than this chant. During this time, we do not just wait for Christmas for ourselves. No, we unite ourselves with the longing of the generations. From the promise Adam and Eve received, that the serpent would be crushed by the seed of the woman, until Christ was finally born, all creation labored in darkness, bound in their sin. There was no solution to their guilt, for no one could take their sins from them. The Law, when it came, was too weighty for them to fulfill, yet there was no other way by which they could keep from wrongdoing. Imagine what your life would be with no confession. That one sin you did years ago, or that little pesky one you can't kick the habit of, would be on your conscience for the rest of your life.

The people crying out in this prophecy understand this. They feel the weight of their sin keenly on their shoulders. They know there is only one who can save them, and this is the very one who, by rights, should be unforgivably angry with them. Yet, though afraid, they are not too afraid to run to him for help. It is like the line in Prince Caspian (which I was reading today):


"And now, where is this little Dwarf, this famous swordsman and archer, who doesn't believe in lions? Come here, Son of Earth, come HERE!" and the last word was no longer the hint of a roar but almost the real thing.

"Wraiths and wreckage," gasped Trumpkin the ghost of a voice. The children, who knew Aslan well enough to see that he liked the Dwarf very much, were not disturbed; but it was quite another thing for Trumpkin who had never seen a lion before, let alone this Lion. He did the only sensible thing he could have done; that is, instead of bolting, he tottered towards Aslan.


No matter how afraid they were, not knowing that God liked them very much, knew enough to totter toward Him. Knowing what we do, we must never fail to do the same, especially now during Advent. Perhaps we have been living, at least in some little way, as the pagans who do not know God. But now that it is Advent, we must act as the Israelites did: wait for the Lord with courage; be stoutheared and wait for the Lord. He comes with power to save us, power that no sin can stand up against. That is what Christmas is for -- for us to "buy into" His original coming, every year, because we fall away a little every year, and must bring ourselves back.

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