Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Third Sunday of Advent— Gaudéte —13 December AD 2009

Saint John's vision of God the Father in the Apocalypse
Jacobello Alberegno - (1360–1390)

The Mass in Latin and English
Third Sunday of Advent
Dominica Tertia Adventus

Ember Days in Advent

    Today is Gaudéte Sunday, a name which comes from the opening words of the Introit of this Mass.[1]  In Latin, it literally means to “be glad,” or to “rejoice.”  The idea is that it is supposed to be a brief period of rejoicing in the midst of the somber and penitential season of Advent.  This is symbolized by the rose colored vestments—worn today in place of the normal Advent purple.

    It struck me that this idea of rejoicing in the midst of sadness is not restricted just to this one Mass.  It really relates to the character of each and every Mass that we offer.

    What do we do when we offer Holy Mass?  The primary thing we accomplish is the renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross.  And what could be a sadder thought than to think of the innocent and sinless Jesus Christ painfully dying for our sins.  He had been beaten, and mocked, and scourged, and then was led away to a slow and excruciating death -- three hours of agony.

    Nothing could be sadder than this—yet isn't it also the cause of our joy?  Jesus Christ died—for sure—but Jesus Christ also rose from the dead, glorious and immortal on Easter Sunday.

    Our Lord suffered a painful death, yet by that death, we are restored to life.  We are restored to the joy of union with God in heaven for all eternity.  From the human perspective, the Sacrifice of the Cross is at the center of God's glory.

    Our Lord is both priest and victim.  At Mass, He is represented by one of His creatures—a mere man.  But that man is, in a sense, lost in Christ.  His own personality is swallowed up in the person of Christ—his actions are performed, as we say in Latin, “in persona Christi.”   As Christ, he offers bread and wine—a “spotless victim” —just as Christ offered His sinless Body and Blood on the tree of the Cross.  And, when the priest pronounces the words of consecration, “For this is My Body. . . . this is a chalice of My Blood ... shed in remission of sins,” it is Christ who speaks through him—and the bread and wine become truly His Body and Blood.  And, once again, we have joy out of sadness, as our Lord comes to be among us, to share the human condition.

    Our Lord is truly present on our altar, and in all the churches throughout the world where this Most Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle.  And even this brings a mixture of sadness and joy.  Sometimes our Lord waits for hours, or even days, a sort of voluntary prisoner in the tabernacle, waiting for His people to come and visit Him.  When we stay away, He feels the pangs of loneliness; when we come to pray, we bring joy to His Sacred Heart.

    We see the same thing in the world around us.  The world can be a difficult place in which to live.  Even the consolations it offers are often deceptions; false friendships, transient love affairs, fleeting success and fading beauty—for some, a downward spiral of despair.  The difficulties and even suffering of life only make sense when God is made a part of that life.  With God, we can see joy, even in the midst of great trials -- when we share our Lord's suffering, He shares His triumph and joy with us in return.

    Bishop Fulton Sheen used to tell a story about priests in a Nazi concentration camp secretly gathering to offer Mass, with a crust of bread and a thimble full of wine.  He always spoke about the immense satisfaction they felt when for a few moments our Lord was with them—and perhaps for the first time in their lives they understood what it meant to suffer with Christ—and knew that in the eternal scheme of things, they had power far beyond that of their captors.

    A great deal of the confusion in the modern Church arises from the fact that many modern priests have forgotten that as “other Christs” they share not only Christ's priesthood, but also His victim-hood.  As Bishop Sheen would say, “They want to have Christ without the Cross.”  They want to see the resurrected Christ, without first seeing Him crucified.  They would have the Mass become a friendly gathering of the “community,” without recognizing that it is foremost the renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross.  A few years before he was elected Pope, Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote that some modern priests do not even believe in the sacrificial nature of the Mass—one has to wonder why they even call themselves priests if they offer not sacrifice.[2]

    This is, after all, the way of the world.  We try to arrange everything so that it is painless—and, there is nothing much wrong with that, except that we become conditioned to seek pleasure and avoid responsibility.  We do it in our worldly affairs, seeking gratification, while ignoring questions of good and evil.  And it spills over into our spiritual life—we stay in a soft warm bed rather than coming to Mass;  we waste our time before the television rather than investing it in prayer and meditation or even in some useful secular pursuit.

    Ultimately, this following of the path of self gratification, leads us away from the only source of true joy in our lives.  Preoccupation with pleasure leads us away from Jesus Christ.

    So the lesson to be learned today—this Gaudete Sunday—is that life is a mixture of joy along with the pain.  Keep things in perspective.  Understand that responsibility is sometimes painful, but always necessary, and ultimately rewarded with true joy.  Keep a good Advent, so that you may know the joy of your Lord, when we celebrate His birth at Christmas.



[1]   Philippians iv: 4-6.

[2]   A lecture by His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, delivered during the Journees liturgiques de Fontgombault, 22-24 July 2001.


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