The season of Advent represents that long period of time when people lived in spiritual darkness, waiting for Christ’s coming, the Light of the world. St. John the Baptist exhorted the people who gathered round him on the banks of the River Jordan to prepare for the coming of the Messiah by sharing their food and clothing with the needy, by being fair to everyone, and by being satisfied with what they had. We, too, are called to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord. The Advent wreath is a common sight in many of our homes and Churches, and the three purple candles of the wreath symbolize waiting, expectation, and preparation. Purple is the colour of penance and humility, and it reminds us that Advent, like Lent, is a penitential season: we are called to fast, to pray, and to perform good works to prepare ourselves for the great Feast of Christmas.
In the midst of this time of waiting, it is as though a ray of light pierces our darkness. The 3rd Sunday in Advent is called Gaudete Sunday (from the Latin word meaning “Rejoice”), and its name is derived from the opening words of today’s Mass: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed the Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5). The rose candle that we light today symbolizes joy. By mixing the purple with white to create the rose colour, it is almost as if the joy that we will celebrate at Christmas (symbolized by the white candle that we light on that day) can’t contain itself. The nearness of the arrival of Christ fills us with so much excitement that the white starts to overflow and mingle with the purple.
I remember my father-in-law telling me how much he loved this particular day. He grew up in Holland in the 1930s and 40s, and the penitential aspect of Advent was very strict there at that time. During Advent, they couldn’t go to parties, they couldn’t dance or go out on dates, and they weren’t even allowed to sit next to their boyfriend or girlfriend at Church. However, on Gaudete Sunday, the rules were relaxed. On that day it was okay to sit together and talk to one other; sometimes they even got to visit together in the afternoon. His eyes always lit up at the memories! As we prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord, let us do so in a spirit of joyful expectation. The Lord is near! Our joy is at hand! May we all be ready to meet Him when He comes.
– Sharon van der Sloot
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