Solemn Christmas Chapter 2019

The photograph below from our Chapel this morning is a summary our our entire Salvation History. From this angle, one can see God's Great Mysteries -  -  -
  • Our Lady stands in the middle radiantly white as the Annunciation
  • the four candles surrounding Mary on the Advent wreath represent the longing, yearning and anticipation for the coming of a Savior
  • the garland that crosses horizontally across the entire scene and unites all the images demonstrates that we are ready to celebrate the Birth of Jesus
  • the Crucifix on the right reminds us of the price Our Lord paid for our salvation, hope and peace 
  • the monstrance in the background shows us the Risen and Glorified Lord of the entire universe
  • Emmanuel = God with us!


This morning, in the last hours of Advent, the nuns gathered in the Community Room because the new cooling and heating system has not yet been connected in our Chapter Hall. We met for our annual Solemn Chapter to reflect upon the great mystery of the Incarnation. after the chanting of the ancient martyrology by one of the Sisters, another gave a reflection on an ancient Advent hymn, Drop down dew from above.          Below is that reflection.

Solemn Chapter 2019
This morning, December 24, we are still in the Season of Advent, awaiting the mystical coming of Jesus Christ into our suffering world. I would like to reflect briefly upon the ancient hymn, Rorate caeli, Drop down dew…
Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum
Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just
And the response:
Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem
Let the earth be opened and send forth a Savior.

This verse from Isaiah 45:8 in the Vulgate, is a very familiar refrain during Advent, leading into Christmas. The text is used frequently both at Mass and in the Divine Office during Advent, as it gives exquisite poetical expression to the longings of Patriarchs and Prophets, and symbolically of the Church, for the coming of the Messiah. If fact, just 2 days ago on the Fourth Sunday of Advent we used it three time in the Mass. During the Middle Ages it was called “The Advent Prose.”

In 1910, it was translated very beautifully by W. Rooke-Ley for the Scottish Book of Hymns, as:
Mystic dew from heaven
Unto earth is given:
Break, O earth, a Savior yield—
Fairest flower of the field". 
 The verses of this hymn give expression to profound human longings and sentiments of sorrow, penitence, expectation and comfort.
In the literal sense, we could say that the first verse is an admission of helplessness and need for God. It bemoans the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians. The “city of the Holy One” is laid waste, because of the sins of God’s people. This is punishment for their sins.
The second verse is a further confirmation of guilt. Sin has made the people lifeless like a dried leaf falling to the ground and being swiftly swept away by the unseen wind. It is not that God has broken them, but “the weight of our own sinning” has done it.
While the first two verses express the devastation of Jerusalem, the third verse begins to focus more on God and His compassion. We hear the people’s longing for the “Lamb who rules all earthly kingdoms.” But what is the reference: from Petra in the desert, to the mountain of the daughter of Sion?”
Do you have any insights? If I remember correctly, Fr. Dwight Longnecker in his book last year on the Mystery of the Wise Men, wrote that Petra might have been the region of the Magi. This would be a connection between the Nativity and the Passion. That is Petra refers to Christ’s birth and Sion to His death.
In verse four, we hear the beautiful words of Isaiah of YHWH and His plans to comfort His people. God will send them healing/ salvation “most speedily”, through himself / His Son, the people’s “sole redeemer”.
When God speaks, His words are meant not only for one period of time, but for all times and all peoples who will listen to them. To look into the spiritual meaning of these verses, we could say that society and religion are collapsing all around us. What are we to do, we who live lives hidden from thte world?. Our Church is not meant to be a museum, but a living reality, the Bride of Christ. Each person is a “living” cell of Christ’s Body.
In verse 2: We reflect that the sins and failings of the leaders and members of the Church have cast Her low. Has the Father “hidden His face”? No, it is the ‘weight of our sinning” that is crumbling the needed structures.
In verse 3, we begin to recognize our need of a savior. After 2,000 years, are we no much better off than the first generation of Christians; no closer to the Coming of Christ’s Kingdom. And, yet, we yearn for the coming of the Lamb who will bring healing and forgiveness.
Yet, with verse 4, our hope bursts forth when we hear the Divine words of Comfort, God has not forsaken us. He will send us His Son. Let us be transformed not by sorrow, but by hope and joy. The Most Holy Trinity is our sole Redeemer Who will come to each believer in a more profound way this Christmas. Finally, we reflect briefly on the Refrain:
Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum
Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just
And the response:
Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem
Let the earth be opened and send forth a Savior.
The church begs God to send down the waters of Grace which enable Justice, Salvation, the God-Man, to spring forth from the earth. These words cry out for a Savior Who is both Divine from above and Human from below—Whom we know as Jesus Christ our Lord. This verse prefigures the Incarnation, the uniting of Divinity and humanity, the spiritual and material, the Creator and the creature.
For a thousand years this verse from Isaiah has been the most popular description, or catchword, for Advent.
I wondered why. The thought came to me that for most of humanity’s history, society has been agricultural, and of course, this is still important for our physical survival. But since the 19th century, many people have become dependent upon others for their food. Those who farm, or garden, know the importance of rain for the “almost magical” mystery of growth and new life springing up from the soil. Rent seeds may fall into the earth, but it is rain – water- that makes them all germinate, each according to their own “kind”.
In this verse we have the divine showers coming down from the heavens to water the material earth so that we might have food to live. So too, god has dispensed His grace upon us to enable the seed of divine life within us to grow and reach maturity.

In the present time of crisis and confusion within the Church and the world, we must continue, and even re-double, our privileged and indispensable vocation of worship and intercession.
Without the contemplative life, the Church cannot survive. It is our hidden lives of prayer and sacrifice that call down the graces needed for others to respond to God’s call. Therefore, our lives should be one great cry to God:
Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just
Let the earth be opened and send forth a Savior.

The Septuagint Book of Wisdom says, “A great number of wise persons will save the world.” Let us be those wise women who follow the Lamb, born in a stable, and spent His life for the salvation of all.



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