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Gaudete Sunday

December 17, 2006

Blessed Gaudete Sunday!

Gaudete means “Rejoice!”, and when the Mass was still done in Latin, Gaudete was the first word that set the theme of the entire celebration for this Sunday of Advent. Rejoice! Advent is more than half-over! Rejoice! The Lord is near! That’s why the candle for this week is rose, a color of joy.

We also begin a period called the “golden nights”, since this is December 17th, during which we pray the O Antiphons (they all begin with “O”). In the O Antiphons we call Jesus by titles given to Him in the prophesies of Isaiah and plead with Him to come and save us. These antiphons were originally composed (at least 1000 years ago) for use during Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer that priests and Religious promise to pray every day (laypeople are encouraged to pray it too). These antiphons are prayed before and after the recitation of the Magnificat (Mary’s song of praise, found in Luke 1:46-55). They are also used as the Alleluia verse during Mass during these count-down days.

In Latin, the initials of the titles of Jesus used in the O Antiphons, when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin “Ero Cras” which means “Tomorrow I come” (which would be true the night before Christmas Eve, when we would have prayed all of these antiphons). These titles for Christ are: Sapientia (Wisdom), Adonai (Lord), Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse), Clavis David (Key of David), Oriens (Morning Star), Rex Gentium (King of the Gentiles), Emmanuel (God-With-Us). These antiphons are also found in the song, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”.

In the home, the O Antiphons could be prayed together around the Advent wreath when you light the candles (if you don’t have an Advent wreath, lighting any candle while you pray helps set the atmosphere). For a longer prayer, you could pray the O Antiphon before and after the Magnificat, the way it’s prayed during Evening Prayer. You could also make symbols for the antiphons to use in decorating (oil lamp, burning bush, key, stump with shoot, rising sun, etc.)

Here’s today’s antiphon:

O Wisdom
Who issued from the mouth of the Most High,
Reaching out mightily from end to end,
And ordering all things tenderly
Come to teach us the way of prudence.

Note the relationship with the following verses:
Isaiah 11:2-3:
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord
(see also Isaiah 28:29, Sirach 24:2-3 & Wisdom 8:1.)

Zephaniah 3:14-18 (Shout for joy! God is with you!)
Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-6 “Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and holy One of Israel”
Philippians 4:4-7 (Rejoice in the Lord always)
+ Luke 3:10-18 (the Baptist instructs us in holiness and points to Christ)

When God is in our midst, we have cause for rejoicing. St. Paul even commands us–twice, for emphasis–to dismiss anxiety from our minds (implying that we will have problems to be anxious about…) and rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4)!

Even as we await the birth of our Savior…

He is in our midst!

…hidden in the womb of His virgin mother.

Even now, we have reason to rejoice!

But we can drive Him away. If we do, we have no cause to rejoice, because we can only really rejoice in the Lord. That’s why St. John the Baptist’s mission was so critical. He had to prepare the way, to turn our hearts to God so that we could rejoice in Him.

He gave specific instructions to specific people. Tax collectors were at risk for the vice of greed, so he told them to practise justice, collecting only the fixed amount. Soldiers were at risk of bullying others, falsely accusing them or protesting their low pay. The Baptist directs them to avoid these things. He tells all of us to share our excess food and clothing with those who are less fortunate.

Every vocation, every path to Heaven, has its own spiritual risks. Those who work in retail may be pressured to overcharge customers or to lie to them (to pass off day-old buns as if they were hot out of the oven). Students are tempted to cheat, to complain or to put studying above the Sunday rest. Parents are tempted to be impatient with their children. The list goes on. What spiritual risks do you face in your current way of life? What would the Baptist urge you to avoid in your ordinary, day-to-day life? What sacrifices would he encourage you to make? What good deeds would he recommend specifically for you?

The answers to these questions can help us prepare the way for the Lord in our own lives, so that our thoughts, words and actions do not put up a barrier to the joy of His Presence.

May Presence of God always find a welcome in our hearts, that we may rejoice in Him.

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