Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
Indeed, the Lord is near.
Gaudete Sunday is the third Sunday in Advent, and upon looking it I now know Gaudete means “rejoice” which is the first word of the day’s antiphon from Philippians. It’s a day where we are reminded of Advent’s purpose both to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s human birth and to prepare for the fulfillment of His promise to come again. As described by Catholic Encyclopedia, on this Sunday there is a shift from adoring the “Lord who is to come” to joyfully worshipping the Lord who is “close at hand.” Where the church tries to emphasize the purpose of Advent throughout the season, it is at the halfway point that it warns us of the nearness of Christs coming and tries to refocus us where we may have become distracted. To grab our attention and draw us to its purpose, this is the only Sunday in Advent where we light a pink candle on our Advent wreaths, and the priest is permitted to wear rose colored vestments instead of the regular Advent purple.
During these liturgical seasons it’s easy to be distracted from what the seasons offer us, especially in Advent. This season is often overshadowed by the important season that follows, Christmas. We feel the need to decorate our houses, buy gifts for each other, and start singing Christmas carols, sometimes as early as Halloween. I’m not saying this to condemn any of these or other preparation habits. My own community at the Jesuit Spiritual Center has shared in a lot of these traditions. We took some time to decorate our home at the Rock House. We saw together a performance by Cincinnati’s very own Young Professionals Choral Collective at their Christmas Concert, which was beautiful. (Support the YPCC!) We have our “Secret Santas” picked out and are on the hunt for those perfect gifts.
These forms of celebration aren’t necessarily right or wrong. The church has nothing against them, really. But if used incorrectly or excessively, they could certainly distract and detract from the true purpose of both the Advent and Christmas seasons. Instead they should be used as a way to help prepare for a joyful encounter with Jesus Christ.
That’s was really a quick summary of a video I saw from Fr. Mike Schmitz on Advent. The full video is pretty remarkable! I encourage you to check it out if you have the time. One thing I really appreciate about the video is the heavy-hitting way Fr. Mike asks us to view Advent. Rather than seeing Advent as just some vague idea of preparation for the second coming, he asks us to imagine that this Christmas, Dec.25, would be the end of our very lives. If we were going to die this Christmas, how drastically would our idea of preparation change? What would we need to accomplish before the end of our lives to make Christ’s second coming a joyful encounter?
It’s certainly a thought that makes you a little more reflective of the Advent season. But hopefully, you’re not despairing over it. Maybe Gaudete’s second reading will give you a little more hope (or maybe my own weird initial interpretation of it will):
James is telling us to be patient comparing a farmer patiently waiting for his crops to receive the rain they need, to the prophets patiently waiting for the end of their own hardships. It asks it’s readers to have similar patience. It tells us to look at the “Judge” standing at the gates, perhaps to show how near Jesus’s coming is. It also tells us not to complain about each other, so that we might not be judged ourselves.
Now for own little weird interpretation. For whatever reason, when I first read this verse I sort of saw it as a reason to try harder on my Adventen journey. When I first read this I didn’t see myself as the farmer. I saw God in this role. A hardworking, yet patient farmer waiting for us, His crops, to get the nourishment we need before our reaping. I’m not saying this so you can take my interpretation as the correct and perfect translation of the verse, or so you can say “meh, God probably won’t come til we’re ready.” One thing Fr. Mike noted is that though we don’t know the hour in which the Lord is coming, we do know it will happen in our lifetime. That is to say that either he’ll come to us or, as long as the mortality rate of humans remains at 100%, we’ll come to Him. In either case, you might not be ready.
The real reason I’m sharing my weird initial interpretation of this verse, however, is to remind us that God is a little more patient… than… pretty much our own full, limited comprehension of patience. He kinda sent His Son to die for our mistakes so… yeah… He’s more patient than most I’d say. Because of this, it might be smart of us to model God’s patience in us, by being a little more patient with ourselves. If we bring this back to Advent and Gaudete Sunday, the season is halfway over. JESUS IS ALMOST HERE! This certainly calls for rejoicing! But if you feel like you haven’t yet been giving your all this Advent, know there’s still time to make some improvements.
I’d encourage you to consider these things. Ask yourself, is there anything I still need to do to prepare for our Christmas celebration? Is there anything I need to do to prepare for my own death?
I want to leave you with a little suggestion/plug for a neat little novena one of my home parish’s youth minister’s introduced to me a couple of years ago: The Saint Andrew’s Christmas Novena. She had prayed this novena before asking for “something good happens this Christmas” and ended up having Taylor Swift give a visit to her grandfather. I prayed this two years ago when I was looking for a job, and I believe I was answered when I was offered a position at the Assumption Early Learning Center in St. Louis. So maybe keep this prayer in mind. We might be halfway through the season of which this novena is meant to be prayed in, but I don’t think God would be upset if you were only able to pray part of it. Prayer is prayer after all.
St. Andrew Christmas Novena
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires [say your intention here] through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother.
It is piously believed that whoever recites the St. Andrew Christmas novena prayer FIFTEEN times each day from the feast of St. Andrew (November 30th) until Christmas Eve will obtain the favor requested.
[Which is seriously like a decade and a half of the rosary. Come on, you can do that!]
Happy Gaudete Sunday! Rejoice and God Bless!