The 3rd Sunday of Advent is nicknamed “Gaudete … Rejoice!”, from the first word of the first chant, the Introit. Today we relax slightly our penitential focus during Advent. Some say Advent is not a penitential time, even though it has always been considered such in centuries past. … We fast before our feasts. Our vestments are violet or purple, as in Lent, though some like to use a bluish rather than reddish purple to differentiate Advent as less somber, somewhat less focused on the penitential aspect.
In the 1st week of Advent we begged God for the grace of a proper approach and a strong will for our journey. In the 2nd week, we asked God for help and protection in facing the obstacles we encounter in the world. Today we glimpse the joy that will soon be ours at Christmas. Liturgically this has been symbolized, though the use–just today–of the rose-colored (rosacea) vestments. Gaudete is the counterpart of “Laetare … Rejoice!” Sunday during Lent. [It\’s easy to remember by the fact that both words start with an \”L\” = Laetare, Lent.]
Our Collect, [or Prayer, Collect, [meaning \”gathering\” all our prayers, thoughts], is … as pristine as the 5th century (probably earlier).
O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.
Let us give a strong & joyful “Amen” when we hear this Collect pronounced or sung in our churches.
In the Collects of the last 2 Sundays we have been “rushing” and doing good works, striving and being careful not to get tangled in worldly things. This Sunday we have an image of unrestrained joy, an almost childlike dash towards a long-desired thing. Our heavenly Father watches over us as we run down the path toward our Savior even as we make sure our paths are straight. Have earthly fathers not watched this scene on Christmas mornings? Do children go to their gifts by zigzags or by running out of the house & away from them? They always go straight at them. Parents watch over their little ones so that, in their intensity, they don’t hurt themselves.
Our heavenly Father leaves us free, but His protecting and guiding hand and eye is upon us. We should feel an eager joy for the Lord’s Coming under the gaze and guidance of our generous and loving God. He’s is our Father and He has a plan for us.
We have to make the path straight for the Lord. He is coming. When he comes, he will come by the straightest path, straightening them Himself if we have not straightened them first. That straightening will not be so easy for us if we are twisty. The eschatological/end times content of the message of Advent truly is “good news”. God hasn’t left us in doubt about how to treat our neighbor. That is “good news”. That helps us to be more responsible about our souls and those of our neighbor.
God hasn’t left us in doubt that he will come as Judge. He has not left us in doubt that rewards come to His friends and “unquenchable fire” of separation comes to those who are not His friends. Dire sounding? No. If we are Christians that is “good news”. It prompts us to be responsible about our souls and leaves us comforted with the knowledge that we can in fact attain the Kingdom Christ helps us to by His grace. We cannot save ourselves. We depend on grace. We even depend on God to help us help ourselves. But our salvation is worked out through grace and elbow-grease. We are responsible for our souls. We can choose to accept or to reject the Lord, in Himself and in our neighbor. We can refuse to straighten out.
Make straight the path … NOW. If you have something to straighten out with yourself and your God, with yourself and your neighbor… straighten it out NOW.
COME, LORD JESUS, COME!
H/T: Fr. Z