Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Advent Prose

"The Advent Prose" is the English name for the Rorate Coeli ("Drop down, ye heavens"), a plainsong-ish hymn with texts taken from Isaiah and sung in the season of Advent.

Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour forth righteousness: let the earth be fruitful, and bring forth a Saviour.

Be not very angry, O Lord, neither remember our iniquity for ever:
thy holy cities are a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation:
our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee.

Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour forth righteousness: let the earth be fruitful, and bring forth a Saviour.

We have sinned, and are as an unclean thing,
and we all do fade as a leaf:
our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away;
thou hast hid thy face from us:
and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour forth righteousness: let the earth be fruitful, and bring forth a Saviour.

Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen;
that ye may know me and believe me:
I, even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no Saviour:
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour forth righteousness: let the earth be fruitful, and bring forth a Saviour.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, my salvation shall not tarry:
I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions:
fear not for I will save thee:
for I am the Lord thy god, the holy one of Israel, thy Redeemer.

From this page:
The Advent Prose is a series of texts adapted from the book of the prophet Isaiah, and said, or more usually sung, in churches during the season of Advent. In its Latin form, it is attributed to Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, who lived in the fourth century. The English translation is traditional. It is most common in high church Anglican or Roman Catholic churches, but no doubt known elsewhere as well. There are several ways of singing it, but a common one is for the Rorate section, shown here with emphasis to be sung as a chorus, and for the choir to take the verses, with the chorus alternating. Although the English text says 'Drop down, ye heavens...', the Latin verb rorare actually means 'to make or deposit dewdrops', a fact which evaded me when I first came to the piece. Similarly, justum in the second line means 'the just man', rather than 'righteousness'.

Here's a version in Latin:

Here's the Latin text:
Roráte caéli désuper,
et núbes plúant jústum.

Ne irascáris Dómine,
ne ultra memíneris iniquitátis:
ecce cívitas Sáncti fácta est desérta:
Síon desérta fácta est:
Jerúsalem desoláta est:
dómus sanctificatiónis túæ et glóriæ túæ,
ubi laudavérunt te pátres nóstri.

Peccávimus, et fácti súmus tamquam immúndus nos,
et cecídimus quasi fólium univérsi:
et iniquitátes nóstræ quasi véntus abstulérunt nos:
abscondísti faciem túam a nóbis,
et allisísti nos in mánu iniquitátis nóstræ.

Víde Dómine afflictiónem pópuli túi,
et mítte quem missúrus es:
emítte Agnum dominatórem térræ,
de Pétra desérti ad móntem fíliæ Síon:
ut áuferat ípse júgum captivitátis nóstræ.

Consolámini, consolámini, pópule méus:
cito véniet sálus túa:
quare mæróre consúmeris,
quia innovávit te dólor?
Salvábo te, nóli timére,
égo enim sum Dóminus Déus túus,
Sánctus Israël, Redémptor túus.

And here's the chant score with Latin words, from the Liber Usualis:

More from New Advent:
(Vulgate, text), the opening words of Isaiah 45:8. 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 Messias. Throughout Advent it occurs daily as the versicle and response at Vespers. For this purpose the verse is divided into the versicle, "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 Saviour"). The text is also used: (a) as the Introit for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, for Wednesday in Ember Week, for the feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin, and for votive Masses of the Blessed Virgin during Advent; (b) as a versicle in the first responsory of Tuesday in the first week of Advent; (c) as the first antiphon at Lauds for the Tuesday preceding Christmas and the second antiphon at Matins of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin; (d) in the second responsory for Friday of the third week of Advent and in the fifth responsory in Matins of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin. In the "Book of Hymns" (Edinburgh, 1910), p. 4, W. Rooke-Ley translates the text in connection with the O Antiphons:

Mystic dew from heaven
Unto earth is given:
Break, O earth, a Saviour yield —
Fairest flower of the field".

The exquisite Introit plain-song may be found in in the various editions of the Vatican Graduale and the Solesmes "Liber Usualis", 1908, p. 125. Under the heading, "Prayer of the Churches of France during Advent", Dom Guéranger (Liturgical Year, Advent tr., Dublin, 1870, pp. 155-6) gives it as an antiphon to each of a series of prayers ("Ne irascaris", "Peccavimus", "Vide Domine", "Consolamini") expressive of penitence, expectation, comfort, and furnishes the Latin text and an English rendering of the Prayer. The Latin text and a different English rendering are also given in the Baltimore "Manual of Prayers" (pp. 603-4). A plain-song setting of the "Prayer", or series of prayers, is given in the Solesmes "Manual of Gregorian Chant" (Rome-Tournai, 1903, 313-5) in plain-song notation, and in a slightly simpler form in modern notation in the "Roman Hymnal" (New York, 1884, pp. 140-3), as also in "Les principaux chants liturgiques" (Paris, 1875, pp. 111-2) and 'IRecueil d'anciens et de nouveaux cantiques notés" (Paris, 1886, pp. 218-9).

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