Twice a year, on Gaudete and Laetare Sundays, the priest dons rose-colored vestments for mass. In spite of what he might think about wearing that color (and there’s always someone cracking a joke about it) — I love seeing it. I love its rosy warmth and the way it breaks into the somber violet of the rest of the season with a note of joy.
During Lent, “Rose Sunday” comes as an obvious relief. But why do we need it in Advent? I wonder, because even though Advent started as a season of penitential preparation for Christmas, we tend to make our way through it in anticipatory joy.
That’s the idea, anyway, whether reality lives up to it or not.
It’s mid-December. Are you having fun yet?
I tend to turn purple like the other advent candles with the exertion and stress of buying gifts and decorating and planning celebrations. So on Gaudete (gow-DAY-tay) Sunday, rose comes as a reminder that Christian joy is another thing altogether. As Pope Francis put it,
“What is this joy? Is it to be happy? No, it is not the same. To be happy is good, yet joy is something more. It’s another thing. It is something which does not depend on external motivations, or on passing issues: it is more profound. It is a gift. To be ‘happy’ at all moments at all cost, can at the end turn into superficiality and shallowness. This leaves us without Christian wisdom, which makes us dumb, naive, right? All is joy… no. Joy is something else; it is a gift from the Lord.”
The pink candle reminds me that the happiness I get from the season (from seeing lights and trees and mangers … from giving and receiving gifts … from being with friends and family) — as wonderful as all that might be, it’s only a picture of joy. Two weeks into Advent, I see rose and push the reset button, make time in my schedule and in my heart to enter that still place where I can ponder the true meaning of Christmas. I try to open a space inside myself where the Lord can enter and be born in a new way.
Two ways to foster joy
One reliably good way I’ve found to do that is to meditate on the Sunday mass readings. Here’s a link, or you can read them in a missalette. Read them slowly, prayerfully, multiple times:
Try to read them with your heart more than your head. Everything in the liturgy this Sunday is tailored to lead us to joy: from the entrance antiphon that gives this Sunday its name (it begins “Rejoice in the Lord always,” Gaudete in Domino Semper) … to each of the readings … and to the solemn blessing at the end. Even the Gospel, which is not obviously about joy, leads to joy because the voice crying in the desert proclaims the coming of Jesus, source of joy.
Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again: rejoice!
… The Lord is near.
Another way to open your heart to joy is to actively rejoice. Turn on your favorite praise music and sing along, or pray some joyful psalms out loud. Mary’s Magnificat, which is the Responsorial “Psalm” for the day, is perfect for this. (Here’s one from John Michael Talbot that someone has paired with a slideshow.)
Then there’s the 16th-century Gaudete carol, with words that explain why to rejoice at the same time as the song leads the rejoicing. There are lots of versions on the web. Here’s one I like from The Mediaeval Baebes. And of course there’s the “classic” version of this 16th-century carol that Steeleye Span made popular in the 70s.
Here are the lyrics of Gaudete together with the English translation:
Christus et natus
Ex maria virgine,
Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary,
|Tempus ad est gratiae,
Hoc quod optabamus;
|It is now the time of grace
That we have desired;
Let us sing songs of joy,
Let us give devotion.
|Deus homo factus est,
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante.
|God was made man,
And nature marvels;
The world was renewed
By Christ who is King.
Unde lux est orta
|The closed gate of Ezechiel
Has been passed through;
From where the light rises
Salvation is found.
|Ergo nostra cantio,
Psallat iam in lustro;
Salus Regi nostro.
|Therefore let our assembly now sing,
Sing the Psalms to purify us;
Let it praise the Lord:
Greetings to our King.
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. (Psalm 34:3)
Here’s to an Advent filled with true joy!
 Gaudete Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent; Laetare Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Lent.
© 2017, 2020 Sarah Christmyer (Updated article originally published 12/17/17 as This Sunday, Turn Pink with Joy!)
You might also enjoy these:
- Rejoice with me! (Psalm 118)
- I Choose Joy!
- Seven Reasons to Rejoice When Things Go Wrong
- Advent 3, Proclaiming Joy: “Joy to the World!” (Psalm 98 and the song of that title)
- Advent Joy: the Third Sunday (Bible verses on joy to meditate on)