2002-12-15 The Third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday

December 15, 2002

The Third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday, lightens a little the solemnity of this season of preparation. The liturgical color of rose rather than purple signifies this, as do the antiphons and prayers. Gaudete means rejoice. It begins the opening antiphon of the Mass. The whole emphasis is on the Heavenly Jerusalem, of which we are marked as citizens by baptism. Something similar is in Lent, with Laetare Sunday coming midway, and the two words are basically the same. You can remember the difference easily because “Laetare” begins with an L like Lent.

Of the Four Last Things preached on the Advent Sundays, Heaven is the one for Gaudete Sunday. In the midst of war and social distress, the promise of Heaven is the constant cause of joy. This joyfulness has to be lived out in our short earthly life spans by turning the temptation to ethereal star-gazing into practical works of charity and justice. A housefly has a life span of one month. Our lives are scarcely longer from the perspective of our Creator, but in Heaven “one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8). A typical adult over the age of fifty has spent five years waiting on lines. We are obliged to use well every bit of living while we have it as stewards of time. Those with their eyes on Heaven make the best use of time on earth.

C. S. Lewis entitled the story of his conversion Surprised by Joy. Joy surprises those living wasted lives, but not the practicing Christian for whom joy should be the constant temperature of the soul, in the midst of all setbacks and sorrows. None of us in the parish should have been surprised by the joyful rituals of the church’s solemn dedication by the Cardinal on December 9. The inexpressible memory of that occasion outdoes all verbal descriptions and is kept alive by the promise of many greater things to come in the life of the parish and the whole Church. Nor was I surprised, though I was most delighted, by the magnificent reception that followed in the undercroft. A great Christian spirit held forth, which had to have been a gift of the Holy Spirit. Joined by our former pastors Monsignor Guido and Monsignor Heneghan, priests, and so many of our founders and early parishioners, and entertained by a bevy of hardworking volunteers, all was a joy. I pray that much good will spring from that moment when our senior founding member, Eleanor Jennings, handed our benevolent Cardinal Archbishop the last penny of the mortgage. In those words of a seventh-century hymn: “All that dedicated city, Dearly loved of God on high, In exultant jubilation, Pours perpetual melody.”

Fr. George W. Rutler

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