Seriously, today, the Church sets aside the purple vestments and the general season of Advent for a moment. The Church uses purple as a penitential and expecting color: funeral rites, the upcoming coming (Advent) and rising (Lent) of the Lord. The Church also knows the reality that Christ is already here and has already been raised. So, on the Third Sunday of Advent and the Fourth Sunday of Lent, we go pink. Known by the first word of the entrance antiphon for the day, these Sundays are known as Gaudete and Laetare Sundays respectively.
Now what does that really mean? Permit me to build up to that for the Advent season. On the First Sunday, if you recall, the theme was of trust in God. Isaiah starts us out by telling us of the upcoming Messianic time.
In the Psalm, we sing of rejoicing to the house of the Lord. So far, nothing seems not too bad. Isaiah tells us of the next era and a psalm about rejoicing. St. Paul brings us back to earth- he tells us to “put on the Lord!” He teaches us that the day is at hand and we can not be indulging ourselves in the desire of the flesh. Finally, the Gospel sobers us up even more: The Lord will come like a thief in the night.
So, we begin the season of Advent. A little joyful expectation followed by “wait, a second- are you ready for the coming of the Lord? Have you put on Christ and left yourself of earthly desires? You think you have time? If you should only be so lucky!” We are, after all, preparing for the Second Coming.
The Second Sunday of Advent brings us back to hear more of the coming of Christ. Isaiah keeps our hopes up. He tells us that the Christ to come is a Messiah of Peace. Not only for peace of nations, but he is a Messiah for peace in our own hearts, in fact, for all creation. He will herald a time of peace in all things; the likes of which we have never known. If Isaiah last week didn’t set our eyes, with wishful yearning, to the day of Christ, this brings us there. The Psalmist sings of justice and peace while St. Paul reminds us that the Scriptures- the Old Testament- was written as instructions for the current day. We are to attempt to act as if the Lord is here- try to bring peace to earth now. The Gospel keeps us on our toes by telling us of John the Baptist: we must prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord!
So now, we’re looking into the future for the Second Coming. We know that we ourselves are not ready but we know to try.
The Entrance Antiphon, not usually said because of the processional hymn, exclaims out for the Third Sunday: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” Gaudete Sunday is a Sunday of Rejoicing! Today, Isaiah continues to light our future telling us of flowers that will bloom in the desert and that “sorrow and mourning will flee.” St. Paul continues to tell us that the Second Coming is at hand. The Gospel is of John the Baptist’s disciple asking Jesus if he is the one who is to come or if we should wait for another. You can say that Jesus responded with “Look about you! What do you think? The blind can see, the deaf can hear, the lame can walk- even the dead now lives.” The Gospel tells us that the Lord is here now! Christ, the Messiah that Isaiah tells us to look forward to is here! He now walks on the same earth that we walk upon!
The season of Advent, until today, has been recalling our minds to the Second Coming of Christ. It has been preparing us now for what is to come. The Kingdom of God is at hand- soon will be the day that we all live in it. Today marks a shift. Though a paradox, the truth rings out- the Kingdom of God is here now. Yes, Christ will come again and yes, that coming will be glorious. We cannot forget, however, that Jesus, son of God and son of Man, has already been born to herald in a new era. We already have the instructions that St. Paul speaks of during the Second Sunday. In fact, we have the instruction of old with the Lamb of the new. We not only have the Law of God but we have the Word of God made flesh already.
The Season of Advent, while still reminding us to prepare for the Second Coming, asks us to remember the First Coming. For the first time, the Opening Prayer calls us to mind the upcoming “birthday” of the Lord. We are expecting, but we also have received what was expected.
So, the next time you look at the pink candle of the Advent Wreath remember that Christmas is not here yet, but the joy already has arrived. Rejoice! The Joy is here.