The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe has inaugurated a new annual tradition to honor Our Lady in the season of Advent. This year, on Saturday, December 3, his Eminence Cardinal Burke and Fr. Paul Check, the Shrine’s Executive Director, celebrated the first Rorate Caeli Mass in the Shrine Church. The Mass began at 6:30 A.M., with the church illuminated only by candles.
The moving power of the candlelight in the darkness made a profound impression. “It makes us calmer and more focused on what’s going on,” commented Fr. Pio Vottola, one of the Norbertine Fathers at the Shrine. “You can’t be distracted.” Enthusiastically, he added, “I think anybody would enjoy it. Even somebody that wasn’t Christian could walk into a Rorate Mass and think, something beautiful is going on.”
Fr. Pio also remarked on the fitting symbolism of the Rorate Mass as an Advent tradition. He noted that, in this season, “all the readings talk about the Light of the World,” and that here, the faithful took part in “a Mass that shows that, that starts in the dark, with the candles, and as the Mass unfolds, and the heavenly liturgy comes down to earth … more light, the sunlight. We acclimate our eyes; even the candlelight becomes brighter.”
Fr. Check went further, likening the candlelit darkness and the slow brightening to the drama of salvation. “The drama of the Rorate Mass brings that before our eyes, the interplay between light and dark, between good and evil,” he said. “It reminds us, too, of the refreshment that the Savior brings to the soul, and indeed to the parched earth of the fallen world, so that we have hope for our salvation.” This refers to the meaning of the Mass’s Latin name, Rorate caeli, taken from the opening words of Isaiah 45:8: “Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness.”
The Rorate Mass is offered in honor of Our Lady. As Fr. Pio said, Mary took on the role of “bringing light to us in the world” in becoming the Mother of Jesus. In dramatically representing the coming of the Light of the World, this Mass celebrates Mary, through whom His coming took place. Fr. Check pointed out, “The interplay between light and darkness reminds us that we live in a fallen world, and we need her care, her intercession, and her maternal love, and, of course, her welcome of the Savior.”
At this writing, the Shrine’s goal is to offer the Rorate Caeli Mass every year on the first Saturday of Advent. This date is especially appropriate for a Marian Advent tradition, as Saturday is especially dedicated to Our Lady.