On the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Rorate cæli Sunday),
Fifth Anniversary of this web log.
Rorate, cæli, desuper, et nubes pluant iustum: aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem. (From the Introit for the Fourth Sunday in Lent; cf. also the fourth Lesson for Ember Saturday in Advent, Isaias xlv, 6-8: "I am the Lord, and there is none else: I form the light, and create darkness, I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord that do all these things. Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened, and bud forth a savior: and let justice spring up together: I the Lord have created him.")
I. Consider first, that this blessed earth here spoken of is, according to the strictest interpretation, no other than Our Lady, that inviolate Virgin and immaculate Earth, from which, without human agency, there sprang that Divine Bud, desired by Isaias so long before, when he exclaimed: "Let the earth be opened, and bud forth a Savior." This being so, it will at once strike thee as strange that this form of expression should be used. For, if the Earth here spoken of was so inviolate as to remain as much closed during as before childbirth, how can the Prophet pray that it might be opened? "Let the earth be opened."
But observe to Whom it was to be opened. To Him Who was able to come forth, and yet leave it inviolate. Wonder, then, no longer. A window is said to be open to the light when the shutters are removed and only the panes remain, although it is all the time closed to water, air, and to all the animals which may go about trying to get in. And why is it said to be open to light? Because the light is able to penetrate notwithstanding. Therefore, because the Divine Incarnate Word was able to pass through Mary's virginal womb, as light passes through crystal without injuring it—"For Sion's sake I will not hold my peace, till her Just One come forth as brightness" [Isaias lxii, 2]—it might well be said to be opened for Him when He left it, since it is well known that everything which can be penetrated by the power of any one is said to be open to Him.
Observe, therefore, that the first thing the Prophet asks is not that the earth may be opened, but that the heavens should rain—"Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just; let the earth be opened, and bud forth a Savior"—because the favorable influences must first come from Heaven, and then the earth must give her fruit: " The Lord will give goodness, and our earth shall yield her fruits." [Psalm lxxxiv, 13]. Thy heart is closed earth, not because it is virgin, but because it is barren and dry, yielding no fruit of devotion. Wouldst thou know what is the real reason of this? It is that thou hardly ever lookest up to heaven: " He prayed; and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit." [St. James v, 18].
II. Consider secondly, that Christ was to be conceived by Mary purely through the operation of the Holy Ghost, and therefore the Prophet here exclaims with uplifted eyes : "Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just." He invites the Divine Spirit to descend into Mary's virginal womb, and to make it fruitful, so as in due time, like chosen earth, to bring forth the blessed Fruit of the Incarnate Word, by which we were to be saved. And if thou askest why the Incarnation of the Word is compared to dew rather than to any other rain, it is because the silence of His coming was in proportion to the greatness of the salvation He brought.
Mary was seen to have conceived before it was possible to know the manner of the conception: "Before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost."[St. Matthew i, 18] Therefore it is that all will not equally experience the good effects of this dew; but it is just as it was with that which fell on Gideon's fleece: the first night the fleece was wet and not the floor round it; and the second night the floor was wet and not the fleece. So the first to benefit by Christ's coming were the Jews, the rest of the world remaining dry; and afterwards the rest of the world received the benefit and the Jews remained dry: "To you it behoved us first to speak the word of God, but because you reject it ... we turn to the Gentiles." [Acts xiii, 46]. Do thou return lively thanks to God that thou art in a place where this dew has descended most abundantly? but if as yet thou hast gathered no fruit in consequence, what does this show? It shows that thy heart is not of earth, but of stone.
III. Consider thirdly, that Jesus is here, by antonomasia, called "the Just"—"Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just"—for to Him alone can that name be given.
Everyone who is holy can be called just, but not "the Just," for when we call any one just, it implies accidental justice, so to speak; but when we say "the Just," essential justice is implied. And there never has been essential justice save in Christ, Who, for that reason, is called Justice itself: "Who is made unto us . . . Justice." [I Corinthians i, 30]. In all others justice has been accidental, because it was possible for it to exist and not to exist in them; whereas it was essential in Christ, because in Him it was not possible for it not to exist; and if it is in others by grace only, it is in Him by nature.
See, therefore, how well the Prophet here says: "Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just," because there were many just men at that time on the earth, but not "the Just." "The Just" had yet to come : "They have slain them who foretold of the coming of the Just One." [Acts vii, 52]. And when He came, whence could He come save from Heaven ? Hence it is that, as there are in Christ two Natures, the Human and the Divine, it is with reference especially to the latter that the Prophet said, "Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just;" and with reference to the former, "Let the earth be opened, and bud forth a Savior," because, if Christ was not just only, but "the Just," this was so because of the Divine Nature, to which sanctity is essential—"One is good, God"— and if Christ was a Savior, this was not only by the Divine but by the Human Nature, which gave Him power, as our Head, to infuse salvation into us, in the same way that Adam, as our head, had infused perdition into us. In receiving Him as a Savior, thou hast certainly to reverence, to thank, and to love Him; but in receiving Him as " the Just," this is not enough: thou hast also to imitate Him. Indeed, why shouldst thou not imitate Him as Savior also, if so great a grace is given thee? But take heed, for the first glory which is here given to Him is that of being Just, and then that of Savior; how, then, canst thou presume to reverse the order?
IV. Consider fourthly, how great is the salvation which this Savior comes to bring thee. It is as great as the evils from which He comes to set thee free. There are two of these: the evil of guilt, and the evil of penalty. But in these two fatal species, how many separate evils are contained! Think on it thyself, if thou hast courage to go through the catalog. And yet from all these this life-giving Bud is to save thee: "I will raise up for them a Bud of renown (nominatum), that is, "named" or foretold for so many ages, "and they shall be no more consumed with famine in the land, through the want of all good, "neither shall they bear any more the reproach of the Gentiles." [Ezech. xxxiv, 29].
See, therefore, that this great Savior is not compared to a precious metal hidden in the earth, but to a bud, which springs from it spontaneously—"Let the earth be opened, and bud forth a Savior"—in order to show thee that thou art not obliged to labor to find Him, but that He is to come of His own free choice to find thee, so great is His desire for thy happiness. How easily, then, mayest thou derive all possible good from Him by approaching to receive Him! Is it not very easy for thee to gather a bud from the earth? Just as easily mayest thou receive thy Savior from Mary's arms, if thou approachest Him full of sorrow to lay before Him thy miseries, and to beg Him devoutly to deliver thee from them. "The earth shall yield her increase," or " bud" (germen), that is, Jesus; and His people "shall be in their land without fear" of their infernal enemies: "and they shall know that I am the Lord when I have broken the bonds of their yoke," that is, sin, "and shall have delivered them out of the hand of those that rule over them," [Ezech. xxxiv, 27] that is, of their irregular appetites.
Paolo Segneri, S.I.
La manna dell'anima (1683)