Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gaudete Sunday: "The Lord is near"

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near" (Phil. 4:4-5).

Today is the Third Sunday of Advent. The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday. "Gaudete" means "Rejoice" in Latin. The name for today is taken from the introit for the Mass, which comes from the fourth chapter of St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians, verses 4-5. It is the Sunday we light the rose candle on our Advent wreaths.

Personally I see the Third Sunday of Advent as a kind of turning point in the season, the time I begin to focus more on the Savior's birth in Bethlehem. However, intimations, hints, and explicit acknowledgments continue to keep before me the necessity of being prepared to meet Him, which strikes me as the almost exclusive focus of the first half of Advent. It is safe to say that Advent is the most complex of the liturgical seasons, thus requiring us to hold things in tension, which is a good summary of the Christian life. As the late liturgical scholar Mark Searle observed, "tension creates energy." Nonetheless, in season and out, in good times and in bad, we are to rejoice in the Lord always.

Our second reading for today is taken again from St. Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians. In this letter, too, the apostle urges us, "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus." Our second reading concludes with the apostle's reassurance, "The one who calls you is faithful,and he will also accomplish it." It is the Lord's fidelity that is the source of our joy. We can also look to the next verse of the fourth chapter of Philippians, "Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God."

In a word, pray. Advent is only half-way gone. If you have managed to sucked into the swirling vortex of "the holiday season" all is not lost. Start today by going somewhere quiet and spending time in the presence of God, or go for a walk and pray a rosary. The possibility for prayer is always there, it's just a matter of our seizing it.

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