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.