Advent is my favorite season of the Church Year. I love all the Advent Hymns, especially “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” My parish is using the refrain “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel” as the response to the penitential rite during the Advent Liturgies. The refrain is especially appropriate on Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent. On Gaudete Sunday we shift our reflections from “the Lord is coming” to the “the Lord is Near.”
This year the 3rd Sunday of Advent falling just eight days before Christmas that shift seems especially timely. This shift is marked by a lighter mood, and a heightened sense of joyous anticipation.
Liturgically, the colors lighten as well. The priest usually wears rose-colored vestments, a hue seen only on Gaudete Sunday and Laetare Sunday. On this day, we light the third candle of the Advent wreath, which is also rose-colored.
The word “Gaudete” is Latin for “Rejoice.” In times when the focus of our anticipation is often on the negative and fearful, this celebration is a reminder that God, who loves us, is still in charge, and that we await his coming not with fear, but with tremendous joy. This is reflected in the second reading for the day from the first letter to the Thessalonians: “Brothers and sisters, rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you, in Christ Jesus.”
So as we approach this last week of Advent, I invite you to join with me in the anticipatory JOY of Christmas.