Sunday, fourth week of Lent
Blessed Laetare Sunday!
You may remember “Gaudete Sunday” from Advent.
Well, “Laetare” means “rejoice” too, and we can trade our Lenten violet
for the rose-color of joy today.
We rejoice because we’re more than halfway through
our time of spiritual preparation for Easter!
The rose color actually originated with the use of roses on this day.
One source claims that members of the Early Church exchanged roses on this day
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.
“Why is your apparel red, and your garments like those of the winepresser?”
Originally the blessed rose was given to a prince who was present
or was sent to a monarch who had done something special for the Church.
Now it’s reused until a worthy recipient is chosen
(places of devotion–the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
in Washington, D.C. received one in 2008).
The prayer that’s used to bless the rose is lovely:
‘O God! by whose word and power all things were created,
and by whose will they are all governed!
O You who are the joy and gladness of all Your faithful people!
we beseech Your divine Majesty,
that You vouchsafe to bless and sanctify this rose,
so lovely in its beauty and fragrance.
We are to bear it, this day, in our hands, as a symbol of spiritual joy;
that thus the people that is devoted to Your service,
being set free from the captivity of Babylon
by the grace of Your only-begotten Son
who is the glory and the joy of Israel,
may show forth, with a sincere heart,
the joys of that Jerusalem, which is above, and is our mother.
And whereas Your Church, seeing this symbol,
exults with joy for the glory of Your Name;
do You, O Lord! give Her true and perfect happiness.
Accept Her devotion, forgive us our sins, increase our faith;
heal us by Your word, protect us by Your mercy;
remove all obstacles; grant us all blessings;
that thus this same, Your Church,
may offer unto You the fruit of good works;
and walking in the odour of the fragrance of that Flower,
which sprang from the root of Jesse,
and is called the Flower of the field, and the Lily of the valley,
may She deserve to enjoy an endless joy
in the bosom of heavenly glory, in the society of all the saints,
together with that divine Flower, who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ages of ages. Amen.’
Today is also known as “Mothering Sunday,”
since today’s antiphon begins “Rejoice, Jerusalem!”,
and the Church (represented by Jerusalem) is our Mother.
This became a day to honor mothers, giving them flowers (roses?!)
and a cake and asking for their blessing–the original, Christian, Mother’s Day.
Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her.
Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.
O God, who through Your word
reconcile the human race to Yourself in a wonderful way,
grant, we pray,
that with prompt devotion and eager faith
the Christian people may hasten
toward the solemn celebrations to come.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23 (Judah was exiled for her sins, then God let the exiles go home)
Psalm 137 “Let my tongue be silenced, if ever I forget you!”
Ephesians 2:4-10 (our salvation is a free gift from God)
+John 3:14-21 (Jesus came to save us; we condemn ourselves)
When I prefer the darkness
I deprive myself of light
and all God’s mercy
cannot save me
from my self-inflicted plight.
But when the burden
of my sin
under its own weight,
when I hang up my harp
and mourn my fate
in dire captivity–
that I remember God…
and He has not forsaken me.
Do I prefer sin to holiness?
Do I wait until my “house of cards” collapses before I turn back to God?