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.
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
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.
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.