From the Pastor: 2 Big Masses This Week!
This is the beginning of the second week of Advent and a quick look at the calendar shows two very “big” Masses which you should put on your calendar. The first is the biggest of the big Masses. This Thursday is a Holy Day of Obligation: The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To help you fulfill your obligation we will have our regularly scheduled morning Masses at 6:30 and 8:00 plus an additional evening Mass at 7:00 pm. Just as a “heads up” for anyone new to Catholicism, the Immaculate Conception is not Jesus’ Conception! This feast comes just a few weeks before Jesus is born and oftentimes new Catholics think that it is strange that we would celebrate His Conception right before we celebrate His Birth. But that particular feast is named the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary—which really confuses the newbies since it names Mary and not Jesus! But a few seconds of thought put into it and it all makes sense as on that day the Archangel Gabriel told Mary that she was to conceive the Savior, she said “Fiat” and, Lo and Behold, Jesus was Conceived in her Immaculate womb. Our Lord’s Conception was celebrated nine months (not just a few weeks) before His Birth, so we already celebrated it on the 25th of March. At this week’s feast, we celebrate the conception of Mary, who was given the singular grace to be preserved from even Original Sin from the moment of her conception, hence, the Immaculate Conception. Her birth is celebrated nine months after the Immaculate Conception, so we will get to it on September 8.
The second big Mass, while not of obligation, is a very beautiful Mass that, similar to the Immaculate Conception, honors the Blessed Virgin Mary. On Saturday we will celebrate the Rorate Caeli Mass at 6:30 am. [Note that there will not be an 8:00 am Mass that morning!] Except for those who are new to the parish or to the Traditional Latin Mass, by now I think that everyone knows that the Rorate Mass is a Votive Mass of Our Lady in Advent. It can be celebrated on any Saturday during this short season so if there are multiple churches near each other that will be celebrating this Mass, you may be able to hop from one to the other each week and pray it multiple times! Such is the case for those who were at the Rorate Mass at Jesuit High School on Saturday, December 3, and now will be at ours this week. So, as we heard from St. Paul just last week, “now is the hour for us to rise from sleep”! For some of you living far away, you will have to rise very early, but “now our salvation is nearer than when we believed” and the early start to the day will be worth it! All of the altar boys, schola members, and sacristans will have to get there even earlier than you and they are the ones begging for this Mass every year! So set your alarm right away so you don’t forget. It is worth getting up early on the one day a week which you might normally get to sleep in a little!
The Advent Rorate Masses are celebrated in darkness, with only candlelight to illuminate the church. As the Mass continues, the daylight grows stronger, as if the signified Light of the World, Jesus Christ, is finally dawning upon us. The Savior is bud forth in the East (or Orient, which, as an aside, is why the term ad orientem—to the east—is used when the priest faces at least liturgical east like the congregation, all looking expectantly to the Orient for the return of Our Lord in His Majestic Glory), the land is blessed, and the Christians (Catholics are the true Christians) are set free from the dark captivity of sin. He came to save us from our sins; to bring light to those in darkness. He came through—and is magnified by—the Blessed Virgin Mary, without whom we would find no Savior, and merit no salvation. Rorate Caeli (or Coeli) desuper et nubes pluant justum, aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem (Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior) are the opening words of the Introit of the Mass. They are taken from Isaias 45:8 and have, quite naturally, been seen as a prophecy about Our Lord’s birth.
One last thing about the Rorate Caeli Mass that I wish to point out to you is the Postcommunion prayer. Maybe you have prayed this, perhaps even three times a day, and never knew where it came from. Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts: that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ, our Lord. Yes, this is the final prayer of the Angelus, traditionally prayed at 6:00 am, 12:00 noon, and again at 6:00 pm. The church bells would ring out at those three times and, in a Catholic town, at least, everyone would stop and bow their heads and pray the Angelus. Not having grown up in a small Catholic town, I never experienced that myself, but in old stories it seems that everyone would stop, pray, and even genuflect in public as the church bells pealed. It was a “Catholic thing” that even the non-Catholics showed reverence to. Now, even the priests don’t know it. Sigh.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka