Rorate Coeli ~ Advent Music Review

Advent has always been one of my favorite liturgical seasons. The music, in particular, is something I look forward to each year. I love how mindful our Church has been throughout the centuries to safeguard and celebrate certain passages, melodies and refrains that hold special significance for the various liturgical seasons. I was so happy to be able to receive a copy of Rorate Cœli: Marian Sounds of Advent from The Monks of Clear Creek

This CD was recorded at Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma. It is a series of chants that come from different liturgical moments throughout Advent and the Mass the Vigil of Christmas, that being Mass in the morning on Dec. 24. The “Rotate Cœli” which the CD is named after, is heard during the Saturday Mass of the Blessed Virgin in Advent. The text is taken from Isaiah’s lament over the destruction of Jerusalem while keeping our eyes fixed on the promise of God’s salvation. The refrain is specifically Isaiah 45:8:

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

I found this image to be striking. The introduction to the CD, written by Abbot Philip Anderson, reflects that, “It is through Our Lady that the Dew of God in Person finally came down from Heave to fulfill the longings of the prophets of old.” Jesus, the gentle Dew of God. It reminded me of the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 where God passes by the cave. Not in the mighty wind, not in the earthquake and not in the fire. It was at the lightest wisp of breeze that brought Elijah to his knees before his Lord and God. Jesus didn’t come to earth on the backs of wild horses or flaming chariots. He wasn’t born in a palace or a cultural center. He came, meek and mild, as the dew we often don’t even remark upon or notice. The simplicity of chant mingles with the complexity of what is sung about. It never ceases to cause me to pull away from the demands of my day and to rest in those few moments of peace and prayer. 

As someone who loves to learn, I was so happy to find the booklet that came in the CD to be full of information. Not only are all the chants written out in Latin, but it also includes English and French translations. Additionally, the majority of the translations are also accompanied with an explanation of when the chant is typically sung, a few comments about key notes, chords, or phrases to listen for and how this chant connects to the others in the set. While these chants are beautiful and mediative on their own, their richness comes alive when you journey through them with the booklet to guide you and inform your ear to the subtleties built into the music.

Though Advent isn’t upon us just yet, still a few days to go, I am already making plans to be listening to this CD as part of our daily drive to school. My kids and I have listened through it as I prepared to write this review and there is a definite difference in the overall tone of the car from when we listened to chant and when we did not. Adding chant to our usual day may become a permanent thing. I will definitely be looking to the monks at Clear Creek for more peaceful and thoughtful chants to expand our collection.

If you haven’t yet, this is a great time to visit my previous blog post which has the Advent Journals for this year. Again, these are totally free to you and anyone whom you choose to share them with. I hope they bring you blessings and peace this Advent season.

To Rise Up

Jesus is Risen! Alleluia!

For Lent this year I tried to spend time every day reading through the Gospels with my Word on Fire Bible. This Bible is gorgeous and full of so much goodness. I really appreciate how Bishop Barron and his team incorporated reflections, explanations, word study, art, even poetry, to accompany the Gospel text. I enjoyed slowing down and taking my time to read everything on each page.

While the takeaways were many and I hope to write about more of them, for this Easter Day one thing in particular stayed with me. Early in Matthew’s Gospel he describes his calling to follow Jesus. Matthew was sitting at his collections table, most likely surrounded by others. Jesus singles Matthew out of the crowd and simply says, “Follow me.”

Matthew says he, “rose up and followed him.” End scene. There isn’t much in these few words. However, there is so much when you know ancient languages! I do not so I, like so many of us, rely on others to illuminate what is hidden in our English translation. When Matthew says he “rose up” or in some translations, “got up,” the specific verb he uses is anastas. Not so coincidentally, when we fast forward to Jesus’ Resurrection, the same root word (this time anastasis) is used by Gospel writers to describe the phenomenon.

Jesus, as we know, rose up transformed. His disciples did not always immediately recognize Him. He could walk through walls and locked doors. He was Jesus, yet He was fundamentally changed, something new that had never before been in the world. Looking back over his life, Matthew recognized that his own call by the Lord marked something significant. He had been changed to the core in that moment, a complete transformation from one man to a new man. A resurrection with a little “r” that points toward Jesus’ redemptive Resurrection which transformed the world.

How much of the Bible do we miss in these little word nuances? I am so thankful for the Bible editors and translators who take the time to shed light on the text for those of us unable to access the original languages.

As you celebrate Easter today and throughout the next week, perhaps take some time to look back on your own life. Have you had a moment where you “rose up” to follow Jesus? How has your life changed because He has called you? And make no mistake, He has, He is, and He will always be calling you to further transformational relationship with Him.

As the Deer Longs

Before living in Texas I don’t think I truly understood what it meant to long for rain. I know there are climates much drier than Southwest Texas. However, growing up in the Midwest inclines one to take rain for granted. We may have had dry spells, but nothing like the oppressive and unrelenting heat of a Texas summer. A summer which, for those unfamiliar, can start as early as April and last well into October. The ground is so dry the wind can blow dust into a haze which is capable of blocking the sun. The grass crunches like potato chips underfoot.

Drooping basil in our front yard

Just a few days ago when a tropical storm hit Houston, a stray cloud still carrying water manages to open up over our house. My children were delighted. They threw on their rain boots and hurried to find puddles of any size before they evaporated back into the hot air. As I stood in the brief sun shower, a Psalm refrain came to mind

“As the deer longs for running streams, so my soul longs for you O Lord”

Psalm 42:1

Standing in the rain, after months without it, it felt as if my soul was pierced with understanding. I felt relief, joy, wonder and a desire to raise my hands and face to welcome the water. I laughed at myself, because how many movies have we seen where a character has done just this when a long awaited rain finally comes. But genuinely, this seems to be the most appropriate action. The thing I didn’t realize I was waiting for, longing for, had finally come.

As the deer longs – what am I longing for? For rain, obvious. But what else? What is my soul thirsting for, and what am I using to quench my thirst? As human beings made of mostly water, we can only survive 3-4 days without it. Water is a critical element to our existence and to the existence of all creatures. It’s not surprising then that the Psalmist chooses to use this image of water when describing how our souls yearn for God.

If you are feeling run down, tired, perhaps stressed out, take a few minutes to ponder this verse. Perhaps even repeat the first part a few times as you identify with your own thirsts. As the deer longs for running streams….so my soul longs for you O God. Then, let those thirsts go, recognizing that only God can truly satisfy all your wants and needs. You might also take this refrain to adoration, or perhaps use it to focus the few minutes before the start of Mass. No matter where you are in life, this simple verse can help calm your thoughts and focus the moment on He who matters most.

Even the smallest puddles nourish the soul