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Sermon for the Votive Mass of Our Lady on Saturday in Advent 2023, Rorate Caeli Mass

Votive Mass of Our Lady on Saturday in Advent

Church of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

La Crosse, Wisconsin

9 December 2023

Is 7, 10-15

Lk 1, 26-38


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

On this day in 1531, also a Saturday, in the darkness before dawn, Saint Juan Diego was walking from his home to his parish church to receive further instruction in the Catholic faith into which he had been baptized some six years earlier. How dark it was and how bleak was the landscape as he neared Tepeyac Hill, for it was winter and the Hill was rocky and covered with prickly and thorny weeds and bushes. When he reached Tepeyac Hill, the darkness, the aridity, the absence of beauty and of fruitful life was suddenly transformed. Let us listen to the account of what happened, as it was carefully recorded by Juan Diego’s most learned and dearest friend Antonio Valeriano:

It was Saturday, not yet dawn, when he was coming in pursuit of God and His commandments. And as he drew near the little hill called Tepeyac, it was beginning to dawn. There he heard singing on the little hill, like the song of many precious birds. When their voices would stop, it was as if the hill were answering them. Extremely soft and delightful, their songs exceeded those of the coyoltototl and the tzinitzcan and other precious songbirds.[1]

Saint Juan Diego wondered whether he might be dreaming or even possibly experiencing what in the pagan religion from which he had converted to the Catholic Faith was called “the land of the flowers, … the land of the corn, of our flesh, of our sustenance, perhaps … the land of heaven.”[2]

It was then that the source of the heavenly transformation became evident. A most beautiful Maiden appeared to him, bidding him to climb to the top of Tepeyac Hill where she spoke to him. The Hill, too, was transformed by her presence. Let us listen once again to the record provided so carefully by Antonio Valeriano:

When he reached the top of the hill, he beheld a Maiden standing there. She called to him to come close to her.
And when he reached where she was, he was filled with admiration for the way her perfect grandeur exceeded all imagination: her clothing was shining like the sun, as if it were sending out waves of light. And the stones, the crag on which she stood, seemed to be giving out rays like precious jades, like jewels they [the stones] gleamed. The earth seemed to shine with the brilliance of a rainbow in the mist. And the mesquites, prickly pear, and the other little plants that are generally up there seemed like quetzal feathers. Their foliage looked like turquoise. And their trunks, their thorns, their prickles, were shining like gold.[3]

The Maiden was the Virgin Mother of God who appeared to Him, pregnant with her Divine Child to ask his assistance in accomplishing her mission of making known to all men the one source of light, of beauty, of fruitfulness: the Divine Son incarnate in her immaculate womb – Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.

She is the Virgin Mother of Emmanuel, God-with-us, Whom God promised to send to us through the Prophet Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”[4] She is the one whom the Archangel Gabriel addressed as “full of grace” at the moment of the virginal conception of God the Son in her womb. At that moment she received for us all the announcement of our salvation:

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.[5]

In fact, the most beautiful Maiden immediately identified herself to Saint Juan Diego: “I am truly the ever perfect Holy Virgin Mary, who has the honor to be the Mother of the one true God for whom we all live, the Creator of people, the Lord of all around us and of what is close to us, the Lord of Heaven, the Lord of Earth.”[6]

The Virgin Mother of God, Our Lady of Guadalupe, on this Saturday of the First Week of Advent – also the feastday of her messenger Saint Juan Diego in the calendar of the More Recent Usage of the Roman Rite – has drawn us to her holy place here to meet her Divine Son, Our Lord and Savior, in the infinitely wonderful Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist. She has brought us here so that Christ may unite us to Himself in His Eucharistic Sacrifice and nourish us with the Heavenly Bread which is His true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Like the experience of Saint Juan Diego on this day in 1531, the presence of Christ incarnate in the womb of His most pure and beautiful Mother dispels all darkness, transforms all ugliness into beauty, and renders the arid and barren fertile and wonderfully fruitful. The Rorate Mass, in a striking manner, points us to the mystery of Christ in our lives.

How much we need to know Christ more fully, to love Him more fervently, and to serve Him with ever purer and more generous hearts. He alone dispels the darkness, the aridity, the lack of fruit in our personal lives, in our neighborhoods, and in our nation. He is the dew, the rain, which we beg God our Father to send upon the dark, arid, and fruitless condition of our souls and our society, so that they may radiate His life, His light, His beauty, His goodness.

In the Introit of the Holy Mass today, we have prayed: “Drop down dew, you heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior. Thou hast favored, O Lord, Thy land; Thou hast restored the well-being of Jacob.”[7] Christ unceasingly and immeasurably answers our prayer, “Rorate, caeli, desuper” [“Drop down dew, you heavens, from above”], pouring forth from His Most Sacred Heart the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, the manifold gift of grace through which we live in Him and in Him attain happiness already in this life and perfect happiness in the life which is to come. Dom Prosper Guéranger, in his commentary on the Season of Advent, exhorts us: “[L]et us ask, together with the Church, for the Dew which will give new life to our hearts, and for the Rain which will make them fruitful.”[8]

Uniting our hearts with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, let us lift them up to the glorious-pierced Heart of Jesus, opened for us in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. He will make our hearts one with His own, dispelling the darkness, the aridity, and the ugliness of sin, and making our hearts radiant with the light, beauty, and goodness of Divine Love. May God the Father hear the prayer of the Virgin Mother of His Son. May He hear our prayer: “Drop down dew, you heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior.”[9] May God the Father shower upon our hearts the Dew and the Rain of Christ, His only-begotten Son, through the dwelling of God the Holy Spirit within our souls.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE

[1] “Era sabado, muy de madrugada, venía en pos de Dios y de sus mandatos. Y al llegar cerca del Cerrito, donde se llama Tepeyac, ya relucía el alba en la tierra.

Allí escuchó cantar sobre el Cerrito, era como el canto de variadas aves preciosas. Al interrumpir sus voces, como que el cerro les respondía. Sobremanera suaves, deleitosos, sus cantos aventajaban a los pájaros del coyoltototl y del tzinitzcan y a otras preciosas que cantan.” Carl A. Anderson y Mons. Eduardo Chávez, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Madre de la civilización del amor (México, DF: Random House Mondadori, S.A. de C.V., 2010), p. 212, nn. 6-8. [Nican Mopohua]. English translation: Carl A. Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chávez, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love (New York: Doubleday, 2009), p. 172, nos. 6-8. [Nican Mopohua Eng].

[2] “… la tierra de las flores, … la terra del maíz, de nuestra carne, de nuestro sustento, acaso … la tierra celestial.” Nican Mopohua, p. 213, n. 10. English translation: Nican Mopohua Eng, p. 172, no. 10.

[3] “Y cuando llegó a la cumbre del cerillo, contempló una noble Doncella que allí estaba de pie, Ella lo llamó para que fuera juntito a Ella.

Y quando llegó frente a Ella, mucho le maravilló cómo sobrepasaba toda admirable perfección y grandeza: su vestido como el sol resplandecía, así brillaba. Y las piedras y rocas sobre las que estaba, como que lanzaban rayos como de jades preciosos, come joyas relucían. Como resplandores del arco iris en la niebla reverberaba la tierra. Y los mezquites y los nopales y las demás variadas yerbitas que allí se suelen dar, parecían como plumajes de quetzal, como turquesas aparecía su follaje, y su tronco, sus espínas, sus espinitas, relucían como el oro.” Nican Mopohua, p. 213, nn. 14-21. English translation: Nican Mopohua Eng, p. 173, nos. 14-21.

[4] Is 7, 14.

[5] Lk 1, 31-33.

[6] “… yo soy en verdad la perfecta siempre Virgen Santa María, que tengo el honor de ser Madre del verdaderísimo Dios por quien se vive, el Creador de las personas, el Dueño del la cercanía y de la inmediación, el Dueño del cielo, el Dueño de la tierra.” Nican Mopohua, p. 214, n. 26. English translation: Nican Mopohua Eng, p. 173, no. 26.

[7] “Rorate, caeli, desuper, et nubes pluant iustum: aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem. Ps. 84,2 Benedixisti, Domine, terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Iacob.” Missale Romanum, Missa de Sancta Maria in Sabbato, I, Tempore Adventus, Antiphona ad Introitum.

[8] “[D]emandons, avec la sainte Église, la rosée qui rafraîchira notre cœur, la pluie qui le rendra fécond.” Prosper Guéranger, L’Année liturgique, L’Avent, 21ème éd. (Tours: Maison Alfred Mame et Fils, 1926), p. 251. English translation: Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, Advent, tr. Laurence Shepherd (Great Falls, MT: St. Bonaventure Publications, 2000), p. 236.

[9] “Rorate, caeli, desuper, et nubes pluant iustum: aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem.” Missale Romanum, Missa de Sancta Maria in Sabbato, I, Tempore Adventus, Antiphona ad Introitum.