By Msgr Michael de Verteuil, Chair of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission
The third Sunday in Advent is sometimes referred to as Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday.
You will notice the pink candle of the Advent wreath lit and some of you may see the priest in a rose-coloured chasuble, reminders that the penitential aspect of Advent is lessened on this day as the readings and prayers of the Mass call us to rejoice.
The First Reading, from Zephaniah, for example, opens with, “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem!”
All this shouting and rejoicing is warranted because, as the reading tells us, the Lord has saved His people and is in their midst. Then the reading picks up God’s joy: “He will exult with joy over you ……. he will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival.” Probably not something we think about often.
The response to the psalm is, “Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” The psalm speaks of the glorious deeds of the Lord.
The Second Reading (Phil 4:4–7) begins, “I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord.”
We are not accustomed to all this happiness, joy, and exultation in church, but here it is. Hopefully the readers will read with appropriate tone and inflection, the choirs will choose fitting songs and delivery, the priest a suitable demeanour, so that all will enter into the joy of the day.
Can we reflect a little further and look at our approach to our usual Sunday Masses? Is there a sense of joy among us, a joy arising from a recognition of who we are as God’s people and all that God has done for us, that God is in our midst speaking to us, feeding us, drawing us into deeper communion with the Lord and one another?
Pope St John Paul II says in his letter ‘The Day of the Lord’ (Dies Domini), that Sunday is the day of joy in a special way. “Therefore, if we wish to rediscover the full meaning of Sunday, we must rediscover this aspect of the life of faith. Certainly, Christian joy must mark the whole of life, and not just one day of the week. But in virtue of its significance as the day of the Risen Lord, celebrating God’s work of creation and ‘new creation’, Sunday is the day of joy in a very special way.”
While the pope reminds us that, “This joy should never be confused with shallow feelings of satisfaction and pleasure, which inebriate the senses and emotions for a brief moment….”, he quotes Pope St Paul VI on “the need for the baptized to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist in joy. How could they neglect this encounter, this banquet which Christ prepares for us in his love? May our sharing in it be most worthy and joyful! It is Christ, crucified and glorified, who comes among his disciples, to lead them all together into the newness of his Resurrection. This is the climax, here below, of the covenant of love between God and his people: the sign and source of Christian joy, a stage on the way to the eternal feast”.
May it be so among us. Blessed third week of Advent.
Did you know
While Catholics frequently associate the colour violet with the season of Advent, it was not always the case. In fact, for a few centuries in the Middle Ages the colour black was most often worn during Advent.
According to the 19th century book, Notes on the history of the liturgical colours, black was in use by the 12th century and lasted until the 15th century.
In [Pope] Innocent III’s time [1198–1216] black was the colour for Advent at Rome up to Christmas Eve.
Historically black was associated with mourning, penance, and death. Advent was seen as a season of intense spiritual preparation, dying to ourselves, so that we may be ‘reborn’ at Christmas. It also reflected the idea that the world was in darkness before the coming of Jesus at Christmas.
Violet eventually replaced black for Advent, still reflecting a period of penance, but was not as stark a colour as black. (Adapted from Aleteia.org)