Gaudete Sunday, Advent 2013
Well, here we are starting the third week in the Liturgical year. Today is known as Gaudete Sunday and more on that in a little while. Holy Mother Church gives us the liturgical year for, among other things, learning about the mysteries of God and trying to grasp what God means to us. The first part of the liturgical is the season of Advent. Advent is a season that celebrates three comings of Christ; and right up front, the first two weeks or so, it gives us the end of our story. Christ is coming back; He is coming to accept the judgment we placed on ourselves. By our lives we determine our outcome, Christ the judge accepts it and makes it final. So, we take this time in Advent to reflect on our preparedness for the final coming. We reflect on how we have lived our lives up till now and meditate on how we can improve. It is a penitential season; that is why we use purple as the color of the season as we do in Lent. A point of historical fact: back in distant history the church celebrated this season as almost another Lent, it was 40 days of fasting – we have it easier now – which might be to our detriment – but it is what it is and I don’t second guess Holy Mother Church.
The second part of Advent, which we are now entering, we reflect and celebrate the first coming of Christ, his nativity. As Catholics we turn our spiritual gaze towards that great event of 2,013 years ago – when God came to us. We celebrate the birth of Christ when He appeared to mankind and meditate on whether our lives have been an appropriate thanks to this gift. After all, He came to us to die for us! If you go back and look at some of the early artwork concerning the Nativity (not the Renaissance artwork with a fluffy baby smiling from the manger) we see the infant Christ not wrapped in swaddling clothes but tightly wrapped in bands of cloth – from head to toe. He looks like a mummy; and that is exactly what the artists were alluding to. In those paintings Christ the infant is clothed in funeral wrappings – He came to die!!
In fact all of our celebrations, seasonal and specific feasts, have the shadow of the Cross on them. In everything we do we have in our souls the knowledge that by our actions we condemned our God to death; a death freely given but death nonetheless. We fallen creatures need for God to pay our ransom because we can’t do it ourselves.
So then, why isn’t the whole year colored in purple or black? Well, that is why today you see Father and myself in Rose, why you see on the Reredos a pink banner (I guess rose was too hard to find). That is why we see the same in Lent on the 4th week. It is a joyful color and it is there because we can’t help it. There would not be a shadow of the cross on the whole year if it wasn’t for the light of the Resurrection. Even more than the cross, our soul always remembers Easter, the resurrection. Our soul always understands that in spite of all Christ died for our sins and rose again so that we too can journey to heaven. From the great celebration of Easter down to the depths of Good Friday and Holy Saturday we always have in the back of our mind that Christ rose from the dead – for us. It is a joy that needs to be expressed and during Advent we do that today – Gaudete Sunday. The antiphon for the day proclaims joy: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.’ Today we proclaim that Christmas is near – that He to be born that day is the one who will die for us and rise. That God will come among us to lift us up – this news is too much to keep silent with.
Brothers and sisters, if this news is too much to keep silent with – that we have to celebrate it during a penitential season it should be too much to keep silent with from those we encounter – we need to proclaim to everyone, by words and most importantly by our lives this joy. We need to bring Christ to those in the world who haven’t heard, or having heard have turned a deaf ear. But to do this we need to be properly prepared. We need to (and this is the third coming of Advent) allow Christ to come daily and enter our hearts. We need throw open our interior doors of resistance and allow the prince of peace to penetrate our very beings so that we can be the disciples that Jesus wants us to. When we do this, when we allow Christ into our hearts then we are believable when we show those around us that ‘Indeed, the Lord is near.’