The Sunday of Rejoicing
Dec 12, 2018
Brethren, rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!
This Sunday is Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of Rejoicing. This Sunday receives its name from the first word of the Introit (Entrance Antiphon) for the Mass. In the early Church, a 40-day fast was observed in preparation for the coming of Christ during Advent. It would begin in November on the Feast of St. Martin of Tours and be called Saint Martin’s Lent. It wasn’t until the ninth century that the Advent season was shortened to four weeks. The great Benedictine saint and pope, St. Gregory the Great, was the first to write the Divine Office for the Advent season.
We rejoice today with the Church, as our blessed Lord is closer. We no longer adore the Lord who is to come; we are filled with expectant joy because He is ever near to us. The prayers and readings for the Mass bring up this word rejoice. We hear in the Introit for the Mass, “Gaudete! Rejoice,” the words taken from the second reading from the Letter to the Philippians. We have come to the halfway point of Advent.
We hear the word rejoice, in one form or another, several times in the readings and prayers for this Sunday’s Mass. Our blessed Lord is trying to tell us something. The liturgy today has more solemnity; we have put away the dark violet vestments today for the rose vestments. The horizon is beginning to glow with a pale, rose-colored light. The rose vestments are a visual echo of the words of the First Reading, which call us to rejoice: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice!”
But isn’t this merely wishful thinking in our world? Our world still sits in darkness. After all, the world is flooded with suffering and sin. Every day, the news gives us wars, death, violence, genocide, and natural disasters. Every day, thousands of babies are killed by abortion, innocent women and children sold into slavery, people who seem to have everything—wealth, power, stability—plunge into despair and darkness. Even in the Church, in Her fragility, filled with scandals and uncertainties, Christ calls us to suffer with Him.
We are people of Faith and Hope. Christ has conquered all these evils. Our trust is in the joy of the Lord, brought about in our souls by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The grace of the Holy Spirit, says St. Paul, “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and it can flourish even in trials and darkness.”
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
The peace the Christ child brings is one of tranquility of heart and soul, a peace flowing from the Heart of Christ. We do not rejoice because we believe Jesus came to bring heaven down to earth. We rejoice because we know that Jesus came to open a new and living way for us to Him through His Sacred Heart, a path from earth into heaven. The joy of Christians is the joy of a hope guaranteed by God Himself. This is true joy, the joy of hope, and Christ is its source.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says:
To transform the world, God chose a humble young girl from a village in Galilee, Mary of Nazareth, and challenged her with this greeting: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” In these words lie the secret of an authentic Christmas. God repeats them to the Church, to each one of us: Rejoice, the Lord is close! With Mary’s help, let us offer ourselves with humility and courage so that the world may accept Christ, who is the source of true joy.
May God continue to bless you and your families.
Fr. Aidan McDermott, O.S.B.