The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as “Gaudete Sunday.” This name comes from the first word in Latin of the Introit (Entrance) Antiphon from today’s Mass, which comes from Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians (4:4-5): “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” (Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Dominus enim prope est.) This Sunday comes as a reminder that the Advent season is now half over and the Christmas feast, for which we are preparing, will soon be upon us. This is cause for rejoicing.
When Saint Paul wrote these verses, however, there was as yet no Advent season. His call to “rejoice in the Lord always” was to characterize the everyday life of Christians. The Lord is always near. In fact he is close to us because we are the members of his body. He is immediately accessible to us whenever we turn to him in prayer, whenever we search the scriptures, whenever we receive the sacraments. While Christmas and its preparations bring joy to the hearts of those who look forward to the fun with family and friends that Christmas brings, we should live each day joyfully, “as we look forward to [the Lord’s] second coming.” (Eucharistic Prayer III)
Our readiness to greet the Lord when he comes again can, however, lead to impatience. In today’s Second Reading Saint James encourages us to wait with the patience of farmers or prophets. The farmer or the prophet can only do so much; it is God who brings the initiative to fruition. In the First Reading God is likened to a farmer, bringing the desert to life. In the Gospel John the Baptist is acknowledged as a prophet, preparing the way of the Lord. God invites us to work, like a farmer or a prophet, with him with patient confidence: “Be strong! Fear not. Here is your God…he comes to save you.” (First Reading)
This Third Sunday of Advent is the Sunday on which the “pink” candle on the Advent wreath is lit. This is the Sunday on which the violet vestments of Advent may be replaced with rose. People often ask why, so I will give an explanation. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, the light of the world. One of the “O Antiphons” used during vespers of the week before Christmas addresses him with the words, O Oriens (O Rising Sun). The liturgical color of Advent is meant to reflect the violet color of the morning sky before the dawn. Just before the sun rises over the horizon, the purple sky often fades to a rose color before it turns to the blue of day. It is the sign that the sun is almost here to dispel the darkness of night. Likewise the rose liturgical color of this Sunday reminds us that Christ our light is coming to dispel the darkness of sin.
The sacrament of penance is an important part of our Advent preparation for a worthy celebration of Christmas. Remember to take time to celebrate this sacrament, if you have not already. The priests of the Chippewa Falls Deanery will be at Holy Ghost this Sunday, December 15, at 3:00 PM. In addition to the usual confession times this week, there will be confessions at both St. Peter and St. Charles on Tuesday, December 24, from 10:30 AM until 12:00 noon.
Pray the rosary this week for the young people from our parishes who made their first confession on Saturday, December 14. Pray also for people who have abandoned the practice of the faith, that they may respond to God’s grace, come to the sacrament of penance and return to the regular celebration of the Eucharist.
May God bless his people with peace.