Rorate Caeli

By Sr. Fidelis
One of the later gems of the Gregorian repertoire is the Advent prose, Rorate Caeli, most likely composed by the Paris Oratorian Pere Bourget in the early 1600’s. The text takes its inspiration from the Book of Isaiah. This simple Verse and Response expresses our deep need and longing for the Savior.

The chant begins with the response which is then repeated between verses. This arching melody in Mode 1 leaps up a 4th on the word caeli”  (heaven), followed by an eight-note gentle descent to the Home Tone RE, perfectly depicting the text taken from Isaiah 45:8 which reads, “Drop down, dew, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down the just One.”

The verses in between the response are woven together from a variety of Scripture sources, including Lamentations, Exodus, and several verses from Isaiah. The verses recite on both LA and DO. Listen for this change, which increases the sense of longing both from the captive (verse 1), and from the Redeemer, (verse 2). The leap of a 4th is also heard in the verses, almost as an echo to the opening response.

V) See, Lord, the affliction of your people, and send him whom you are about to send;  send forth the Lamb, the Lord of the earth, from the rock of the desert to the mountain of the daughter of Zion, and he himself may take away the yoke of our captivity.

V)  Be comforted, be comforted my people; your deliverance will come quickly. Why are you consumed with grief, that your sorrow has been renewed? I will save you, do not be afraid; I myself am indeed the Lord your God, the holy One of Israel, your Redeemer.

Rorate Caeli