Our week begins with “Gaudete Sunday.” Gaudete means “rejoice” in Latin. It comes from the first word of the Entrance antiphon on Sunday. The spirit of joy that begins this week comes from the words of Paul, “The Lord is near.” This joyful spirit is marked by the third candle of our Advent wreath, which is rose colored, and the rose colored vestments often used at the Eucharist.
The second part of Advent begins on December 17th each year - this year, in 2015, it is Thursday of the Third Week of Advent. For the last eight days before Christmas, the plan of the readings changes. The first readings are still from the prophesies, but now the gospels are from the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke. We read the stories of faithful women and men who prepared the way for our salvation. We enter into the story of how Jesus' life began. These stories are filled with hints of what his life will mean for us. Faith and generosity overcome impossibility. Poverty and persecution reveal glory.
Preparing our Hearts and asking for Grace
We prepare this week by feeling the joy. We move through this week feeling a part of the waiting world that rejoices because our longing has prepared us to believe the reign of God is close at hand. And so we consciously ask:
Prepare our hearts
and remove the sadness
that hinders us from feeling
the joy and hope
which his presence
Each morning this week, in that brief moment we are becoming accustomed to, we want to light a third inner candle. Three candles, going from expectation, to longing, to joy. They represent our inner preparation, or inner perspective. In this world of “conflict and division,” “greed and lust for power,” we begin each day this week with a sense of liberating joy. Perhaps we can pause, breathe deeply and say,
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
Each day this week, we will continue to go through our everyday life, but we will experience the difference our faith can bring to it. We are confident that the grace we ask for will be given us. We will encounter sin - in our own hearts and in our experience of the sin of the world. We can pause in those moments, and feel the joy of the words,
“You are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people
from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
We may experience the Light shining into dark places of our lives and showing us patterns of sinfulness, and inviting us to experience God's mercy and healing. Perhaps we wish to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconcilation this week. We may want to make gestures of reconcilation with a loved one, relative, friend or associate. With more light and joy, it is easier to say, “I'm sorry; let's begin again.”
Each night this week we want to pause in gratitude. Whatever the day has brought, no matter how busy it has been, we can stop, before we fall asleep, to give thanks for a little more light, a little more freedom to walk by that light, in joy.
Our celebration of the coming of our Savior in history, is opening us up to experience his coming to us this year, and preparing us to await his coming in Glory.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come and visit your people.
We await your coming. Come, O Lord.