Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rejoice in the Lord always!

FRIARS CORNER, December 13, 2008:

"Gaudete! Rejoice!"

On this Third Sunday of Advent we celebrate what is traditionally called "Gaudete Sunday" or "Rejoice Sunday." You have certainly noticed the rose-colored candle in the Advent wreath, and I'm sure you noticed the rose colored vestments Fr. Mike and I wore today, but do you know why in the midst of this season we suddenly break away from our bluish purple into dusty rose for one day? (As a side note, the color we wear is a very masculine "dusty rose," it is certainly NOT "pink".)

The color rose is only occasionally used liturgically - as a matter of fact just twice a year, today and on Laetare Sunday during Lent - and it represents joy. Today, we are more than halfway through our season of Advent. While not quite as penitential a season as Lent is, Advent is meant to be a time of penance and preparation. And yet right in the middle of it, on our way to Christmas, we express the joyful aspect of anticipating the Lord's coming. You can hear the theme of joy and rejoicing throughout the readings and prayers in the Mass.

This third Sunday in Advent is called "Gaudete Sunday." Gaudete means 'rejoice!' in Latin, and is the first word in the Mass today. If you look up the "entrance antiphon" in a missalette, you will see that it starts out: "Rejoice in the Lord always!" In the Latin that would read "Gaudete in Domino semper!" We don't recite the entrance antiphon, instead we sing a song, but the theme of rejoicing is no less conspicuous now on Gaudete Sunday than in the past. This theme is repeated in our readings. We hear in Isaiah, "I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul." Our psalm reminded us "My soul rejoices in my God." And, St. Paul told us to "Rejoice always."

We are meant to be nearly overwhelmed with our joy at the celebration of the coming of Emmanuel, God-with-us. I often think of that childhood excitement that we all had at one time or another. I remember as a young child, on Christmas Eve, my Dad often would have to sleep in the bedroom with my brother and I because our excitement was so great that we quite literally could not contain ourselves. I hope you have wonderful memories of that kind of excitement and joy; and the gift to see that on the faces of your own children and grandchildren.

But, this excitement and joy is not meant to be contained or limited to the young. It is the kind of excitement the Church wants each of us to have. So, today, do not let yourself enter that space of being overwhelmed - when am I going to get done everything that needs to be done for Christmas - instead, let the joy of the season, the joy of what this is really about, overtake your heart. Who cares about presents!? They are the mere icing on the cake. Today, rejoice because your Lord is near; your Lord is ready to be born again - born most importantly in our hearts. What great joy!

The rest is up to us. Fr. Mike's nephew Cody has a saying when someone's actions don't match their words, "Inform your face." Let us embrace the joy that our liturgy invites us into today. Let the joy of the coming of Our Lord enflame our hearts and be evident on our faces, in our words, in who we are.

"Rejoice in the Lord always!" "Gaudete in Domino semper!"

Love, Fr. Tom

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