This Sunday we light the roses colored candle on our Advent wreath and this week we celebrate Gaudete Sunday! Gaudete is the Latin word for joy. So what makes the third week of Advent different from the rest?
We get the term Gaudete from the first line of the introit of the Mass. The introit is the opening chant of the Mass. You may not even be aware of the term because it is often replaced by the opening hymn. But it’s worthwhile to look at the introit in the missal and to reflect on it before Mass starts.
For Gaudete Sunday the Introit is taken from Saint Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”
Why Do You Tarry Lord?
So far in the weeks of Advent we’ve seen a subtle movement. We started with hope – trust that God will keep His promises. God laid the foundation for His promise of a savior immediately after the Fall. But the savior was a long time in coming. Why did God wait so long to send us the Savior?
One answer, expressed in the Baltimore Catechism, is that God wanted to impress on humanity the full horror of sin, especially in how it separates us from God. God wants our hearts to yearn for Him so that we’ll truly love Him.
Another answer is that at the same time God was teaching humanity how to love Him. If we look at Salvation History we see how God takes the Hebrew people, and through them all of humanity, how to build a relationship with Him step by step. You can learn more about how Salvation History teaches this lesson by clicking here.
So in the first week of Advent we exercise the trust in God that gives rise to perseverance. We settle in for the long haul and we prepare our hearts to learn the lessons God wants to teach us. That’s the week of hope.
Preparing for the Promise
We saw how the second week of Advent has the theme of peace. This is the peace that comes with hope as we see our trust is well-placed. We start to see how God is working in our lives. The scriptures for this week are about making straight the crooked paths and making level the hills that stand between us and our relationship with God. This is a time not of pining but of active preparation to receive God’s plan.
Responding in Joy
In the third week of Advent we enter into the “fullness of time.” We’ve received God’s loving plan of salvation. We’ve entered into the work on our souls meant to prepare the way for the Lord. We’ve grown in trust. We’ve participated in the disciplines of Advent – prayer, sacrifice and alms giving – and allowed these practices to change our hearts. And now we recognize that the time has come!
It’s time for the Father to bring it all to fulfillment. And He does that in the Gift of His Son.
So our hope and our peace are now united to joy as we acknowledge the goodness and mercy of our God. We are still in a state of anticipation, but it’s now the anticipation of Christmas Eve. We know the good stuff is coming, but we just have to wait one more night.
A Special Time of Prayer
December 17th marks a very special time of prayer each year. The Gospels at Mass are taken from the infancy narrative. Rather than focusing on the future joy of Jesus’ “second coming,” we now focus on Emmanuel –Jesus with us now.
A special prayer for this time period are the “Oh Antiphones.” These Antiphones are also used in the introit of the Mass. Each one announces a title for Jesus, telling us what we have received in the gift of Jesus. Even if you don’t hear the Oh Antiphones in the introit, you’ll be familiar with them through the song “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel.”
A Miniature Celebration
It is very fitting to do something to celebrate Gaudete Sunday. Go out to eat. Have desert. But continue to save the full Christmas celebration for the Christmas season! My family will go Christmas tree hunting during this week. We’ll start decorating the house for Christmas (the Advent wreath and the Jesse Tree are our only decorations for the first two weeks of Advent). We might even have a few cookies and some hot chocolate while we decorate. But all of this celebration still holds an air of preparation and anticipation.
What will you do to celebrate Gaudete Sunday in a way that celebrates joyful preparation for our Savior? Let’s share ideas in the comments below!
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