I’m often asked, “What is your Order’s charism?”
It stumps me a little, because we are much too old to have been founded with a particular charism in mind (much like the Rosary; the second question I’m asked is “why don’t you wear the Rosary?” Simply put, Our Lady invented the Norbertine habit before she invented the Rosary”). But over the centuries, the Order has distilled the “spirituality” of St Norbert to five charismata: the sacred liturgy (or the splendour of cult), a zeal for souls, a life of penance, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and devotion to the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother.
Last week, we celebrated the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which, in the Order, has an Octave which even trumps Advent (except on the Sunday), and this morning, we celebrated a traditional Rorate Mass.
In fact, it was not technically a Rorate Mass, since in our Rite, today is the Octave day of the Immaculate Conception, so it was a Mass of the Immaculata. A Rorate Mass, however, is traditionally celebrated in Advent, in honour of Our Lady, in the dark of the morning before sunrise, by candlelight. The Rorate refers to the first words of the introit of the Mass (much like how a Requiem Mass gets its name): Rorate caeli desuper… Drop down ye heavens from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness.
In Advent, we stay especially close to Our Blessed Mother, recalling her sacred pregnancy that in that first Advent in the Holy Land. Our Lady is, after all, the Queen of the Universe, Queen of our Order, and Queen of our Little House of Poverty, so how can we, her children and her subjects, neglect her while she wanders with St Joseph through the cold winter landscape of Judaea on her way to Bethlehem? In those days, she and St Joseph slept under the stars, and awoke early in the morning before the birds, and so this morning at 6.30 a.m., we celebrated a Solemn Mass of the Immaculata in the Old Rite by candlelight, and we were gladly joined by lots of parishioners. Afterwards, we all enjoyed breakfast together in our refectory.
Tomorrow (16th) we start the O Antiphons at vespers (in our Rite, we begin the second part of Advent a day early in good mediaeval fashion, since we have extra Antiphons). The “O” refers to the start of the Magnificat antiphon each day until 23rd December, and they each refer to various titles of our Infant King. Come, Lord Jesus!
God bless and keep you all this Advent.