“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!” (from Philippians 4:4). This is the original (Latin) Entrance Antiphon for the 3rd Sunday of Advent. It is the reason this Sunday is known as “Gaudete Sunday.” But why?
I’m reminded of a commercial. I can’t recall the product or service being promoted, but I cannot forget the image: a camel wandering through an office, asking folks to tell him what day it is—“C’mon, c’mon—what day is this? What day is this??” Finally, one exasperated woman mumbles, “It’s ‘Hump Day.’” “Woo hoo,” shouts the (one-humped) camel!
We all know about “Hump Day”—it’s the point when the work week has passed the mid-point; the weekend is now that much closer than it was on Monday—it’s downhill from here; the weekend is in sight.
“Gaudete Sunday” is the “Hump Day” of Advent—we’ve passed the mid-point, and Christmas is now much closer than when Advent began—it’s in sight. It’s a lived experience, if you like, of the words of St Paul from the 1st Sunday of Advent (Cycle A)—“You know the time… our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand” (Romans 13:11-12). It’s the beginning of the “Good News” of our salvation.
We have only a very few days left before the “Pre-Octave” of Christmas is upon us. Beginning on Tuesday, from the 17th through the 24th of December, we are in the home stretch. Liturgically, we celebrate this time with the “O Antiphons,” which make a part of Evening Prayer (the antiphon for the Magnificat) and daily Mass (the verse along with the Alleluia). They are the basis of the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” They are images from the prophets proclaiming the attributes and nearness of the Messiah. We can’t wait.
Sadly, this time is more typically a time of panic for folks who are trying to finish their Christmas shopping—this kind of frenetic and chaotic activity is not very conducive to reflection and quiet waiting! But can we take some time during these days to remember (as we’re often enough reminded) that Someone Else is “the reason for the season”? We even have billboards in town that wish people a “Merry CHRIST-mas”…
On a completely unrelated note (pun intended!), Monday is 16 December: the birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven. Perhaps you could celebrate by listening to a recording of his Symphony #9 (or at least singing the hymn “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”—based on the melody of this symphony’s final movement). Ludwig was a cantankerous character, and not just because of the frustrations stemming from his deafness. He would be about as attractive a dinner-companion as (I think) would have been St John the Baptist. But they were both great, in their own ways and in their own gifts. William Butler Yeats once wrote, “The intellect of man is forced to choose perfection of the life, or of the work.” St John the Baptist chose the former; Beethoven embodied the latter.