Sunday, December 13, 2015

Advent: Holy Time, December 13, Gaudete Sunday

Gaudete Sunday, December 13
Reflection by Tuesday Rupp

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.

Philippians 4:4–6; Psalm 85: 1

Recently I was at a gala celebration in my parish with a dance floor and a great band. People of all ages, races, and walks of life were there. After dinner was over, the band began to play upbeat songs that many knew well. At first, only one or two couples came onto the temporary wooden floor and began to strut their stuff. But bit by bit, almost everyone crammed onto the floor. Women and men I only knew in the context of sitting attentively in pews, or over coffee and rolls, or in committee meetings, all participated in this ecstatic experience of community and joy. The dancers were evangelical about their experience, reaching out hands to pull others into the experience. It was a night of real joy, shared by our community of faith. Somehow, the anxieties our congregation is facing were set aside by the shared experience of joy.

St. Paul invites us to rejoice even in ­ especially in ­ an anxious age. “Rejoice” ­ to feel or offer intensely felt joy ­ is one of those words we often say in church without thinking about. It is not a word I hear or say much outside of worship. Maybe it is a little old fashioned. Maybe the idea of expressing exuberant joy is so outside of our normal experience that we don’t have much use for it. Experiences like our gala dance are exceptions to our normal experience. Perhaps they should not be.

We do not rejoice because we are free from anxieties; we rejoice in spite of them. Joy, too, is a form of prayer, a way of knowing and experiencing God. Where do you find joy ­ more than pleasure, or satisfaction, but pure joy, the kind that makes you reach out a hand and invite in another?

This Latin song, “Gaudete, ” was first published in the 1582 collection P ies cantiones, though it is much older. Sung here by the Scottish folk band, Steeleye Span, it expresses in word and music the joy of knowing God incarnate in Jesus. I hope you will rejoice in the hearing as I do in the sharing.

The third Sunday in Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, named after the first word of the introit proper for the day’s Mass. In the medieval observance of Advent, a penitential season similar to Lent, the third Sunday was a lightening of the somber season, signaled by the liturgical use of pink instead of violet or blue. 

Click the YouTube video below to hear a brief musical exploration of Gaudete Sunday. 


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