At the beginning of Advent I walked into the chapel and noticed the Advent wreath that was standing in the sanctuary. This is nothing new but as the days kept on going by I was wondering “what does that pink candle stand for again?” As I began thinking about this topic for a blog I knew that I had to do some research. So I did what any good studious Dominican does, I went to Wikipedia to discover the answer. But much to my dismay there was not much, but what I did find is that the Third Sunday of Advent is “Gaudete” Sunday or in the vernacular, “Rejoice” Sunday. Then I went to the library (what real Dominicans should do) and began sifting my way around to find out what Gaudete Sunday is really about, and I came to the question, why do we “rejoice” on this Third Sunday of Advent? We know that Christmas is near and that we should be preparing for the coming of Christ but why do we rejoice when we are almost two weeks away?
Let us first look at the word “gaudete.” It is a Latin verb: the root "gaude", the definition is, be glad, rejoice. Then if we look at the conjugation of the word, the plural imperative, we find that it really means “you people, be glad” or "you all, rejoice!” So perhaps that answers the question, we rejoice because the Church tells us to rejoice. While that may seem a little pretentious it is more or less the truth. In the Middle Ages Advent was very much like Lent in that it was a penitential season, there was fasting, penitential acts, and plenty of violet or purple to go around. Today we do not see much of these penitential acts or fasting during the Advent season but the message is still important, we need to remember to rejoice because the Lord is coming!
So why pink? Well actually the color is rose. And the reason that we use the color rose is because it represents joy. There are actually two times during the liturgical year that we see the church and the priest decked out in rose. The first is Gaudete Sunday and the other is Laetare Sunday, each day being in the middle of their respective season. Both of these days are suppose to be days of rejoicing and a break from the fast or penitential acts because we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, that light is Christ.
At St. Dominic Priory, like many college students, we have just finished our finals and I can hear rejoicing all over the house. The “penitential season” of cramming, studying, and paper writing has finally been completed. But even though the exams are finished, the papers are done, and the projects are complete there still seems to be some anxiety. I feel unsettled, perhaps it’s waiting for the grades, getting ready for home visits, or still having to do that last minute Christmas shopping. But in Sunday’s second reading Paul tells the Philippians to have “no anxiety” and to “always rejoice in the Lord.” So even though the semester has been busy and the first two weeks of Advent were more survival mode then preparation for Christmas, now would be a great time to rejuvenate and prepare for the coming of Jesus. It’s like a restart in the middle of a game and we can come back to finish it out. So let us finish strong and perhaps some help from our Mother Mary in her canticle would be a great boost to restart the Advent Season and preparing for our Lord.
His mercy is from age to age,
on those who fear him.
He puts forth his arm in strength
And scatters the proud hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones
And raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things,
Sends the rich away empty.
He protects Israel, his servant,
remembering his mercy,
the mercy promised to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.