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Third Sunday of Advent: Cause for Joy

December 11, 2011

Blessed Gaudete Sunday!

Gaudete means “Rejoice!”,
and when the Mass was still done in Latin, that was the first word,
the 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!

This week we get a break from our Advent violet for the more cheerful rose.
You will probably see that in the candle lit on the Advent wreath this week,
and possibly even in your priest’s vestments (although rose vestments have become rather rare).

The use of rose to mark having passed the halfway point of a penitential season
actually started in Lent.
One source claims that members of the Early Church exchanged roses
on the fourth Sunday of Lent (just past the halfway point of the season)
as a sign of mingled sorrow and joy (soft petals and prickly thorns).

What is more certain is that rose vestments are used
for the ceremony of the papal blessing of the golden rose on the fourth Sunday of Lent
(which was referred to as an ancient custom in the 12th century).
This rose, which is fragranced with incense and set with rubies (it was once tinted red),
is a symbol of Christ, the Flower that sprang from the Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1).
The fragrance signifies the sweet aroma of Christ,
which should be diffused throughout the whole world by His followers
(see II Corinthians 2:14-15). The color and thorns remind us of His Passion.

Once rose was established as a color of joy in Lent, it was used in a similar way in Advent.
It’s especially appropriate as we look forward to the O Antiphon for December 19th:

O Root of Jesse
A standard to the peoples,
Before Whom kings are mute,
To Whom all nations shall appeal
Come to deliver us; delay, please, no longer

A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom
-Isaiah 11:1

O God, who see how Your people
faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,
enable us, we pray,
to attain the joys of so great a salvation,
and to celebrate them always
with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
(Opening Prayer from Mass)

Isaiah 61:1-1, 10-11 (the Spirit of God has sent me to bring glad tidings)
Psalm: Luke 1: 46-51, 53-54 “My soul rejoices in my God”
I Thessalonians 5:16-24 (may God help us to be irreproachable at the coming of Jesus)
+ John 1:6-8, 19-28 (the Jewish leaders ask St. John the Baptist: “Are You He who is to come?”)

Psst! Guess what! He’s already here!

Yes, we’ve been talking all along about His coming
–and He is coming–
but St. John the Baptist tells us that

standing among you
–unknown to you–
is the One who is coming after me
-John 1:26-27

This is true on multiple levels.

During the month leading up to His birth,
Jesus is Present, hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The hidden Jesus is also Present
in every Tabernacle around the world, just waiting for a visit.

He is Present, too, in “the least of these.”
Everything we do to or for them He receives as done to Himself (see Matthew 25:40, 45).

He is among us…but unknown to most.

There’s a sign gives Him away, though:
holy joy.

Mary has it, despite her precarious position as a virgin mother:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior
-Luke 1:46-47

In fact, the word she uses for “rejoice”
comes from two root words meaning “much” and “to jump for joy!”

Jesus is within her.

He’s within us whenever we love Him enough to obey Him (see John 14:23),
and especially when we receive Him worthily in Holy Communion.

Isaiah has this holy joy too, despite persecution by his own people:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
I rejoice heartily in the Lord,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for He has clothed me with a robe of salvation,
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels
-Isaiah 61:1, 10

Note that the cause of his joy is the anointing, the Presence, of the Holy Spirit.

We receive this same anointing in Baptism and Confirmation.

These are object lessons of what joy is:
the delight that arises within us in the presence of someone we love.

My prince and I have been known to respond to distressing situations by saying to each other (for example),
“I’d rather be stranded in a blizzard with you (or whatever the trial may be)
than safe at home with anybody else!”

That’s joy.

Not surprisingly, St. Paul expects this holy joy of us
no matter what life sends our way:

Rejoice always
-I Thessalonians 5:16

Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
-Philippians 4:4

So does King David is a smattering of psalms

Rejoice in the Lord, you just
Psalm 32:11, 33:1, 97:12

The Lord, our Beloved, is with us
and nothing (save our own free choice to reject Him)
can separate us from His love (see Romans 8:35-39).

When life throws you a curve
turn your heart to the One Who promised He would never leave or forsake you
(see Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5).
Find Him in His mother’s womb.
Find Him in the Tabernacle.
Find Him in “the least of these.”
Find Him in the sanctuary of your own heart (I Corinthians 3:16-17).

You always have cause for joy!

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