Philippians 4:4-5 Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Dominus enim prope est. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.
Zephaniah 3:14 Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart.
Luke 3:18 Exhorting them in many other ways, he (John the Baptist) preached good news to the people.
The Third Sunday of Advent and the Fourth Sunday of Lent are traditionally known in the sacred liturgy of the Roman Rite by the Latin first words of their Gregorian Chant Introits (Entrance Chants), which remain even in the liturgical reform as the official opening music for these days. In Advent it is Gaudete, whereas in Lent it is Laetare; both are exhortations to the people of God to rejoice in the Lord. In fact, during the many centuries when these ancient and venerable chants were used exclusively, the congregation would immediately know the occasion not only by the words, but also by the proper music. It told them that the holy season of Christmas preparation or Easter preparation was half over. There is still the custom in many parishes to switch from violet colored vestments to rose colored ones, if these are available, but just for these two Sundays. Clearly, the theme in Advent is rejoicing in the grace won for us by our Divine Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Who wouldn’t want to be reborn in Christ?
In these days of text-messaging you might try Philippians 4:4. Though a Christian is usually not exempt from suffering, there is always reason to be joyful in the Lord come what may. This joy is not superficial, but enters the depths of one’s being in one’s heart of hearts. Here, no matter what may be going on, the Lord comes to dwell. Thus, from the Christian perspective, sadness is to live in the state of mortal sin, alienated from God. Authentic Christian joy means to live in the state of sanctifying grace and to grow in that wonderful grace day by day. It is that joy that already gives us a taste of the joy of heaven in this world. That is what the Gospel is all about, meaning in the original Greek, Good News.
The Advent of the Lord is forcefully proclaimed right before we receive Holy Communion: “Ecce Agnus Dei, Ecce qui tollit peccata munda; Behold the Lamb of God, Behold Him Who takes away the sins of the world.” Communion with our Lord is our greatest joy. I encourage all to make their Christmas communion with the purest and most loving heart – a heart that is right with the lord. What is Christmas if we are not reborn in the Lord, if we are not in communion with Him? With this attitude we receive the greatest Christmas gift of all.
Fr. Mark Mazza