The Third Sunday of Advent is often known as Gaudete – Rejoicing – Sunday, from the Latin text of the Introit, Philippians 4.4, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice.” Our Advent discipline is relaxed, and the liturgical colour is rose.
Paul is writing from prison, yet he is able not only to encourage his readers in these strong terms to rejoice, but also to rejoice himself. He exhorts them to be joyful in the Lord in whatever circumstances they find themselves. This may be a salutary lesson for us, as we live through the second Advent and Christmas season under the constraints of Covid-19, and as the Province begins to work on recovery after the floods and landslides of the past month.
Henri Nouwen, the Dutch priest and spiritual guide, wrote about the difference between joy and happiness, and how joy may persist even in the saddest times. Mike Jordan Laskey, an American spiritual author, has this to say, “While happiness is dependent on external conditions, Nouwen writes that joy is something deeper. It is ‘the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can take that love away . . . I [Nouwen] remember the most painful times of my life as times in which I became aware of a spiritual reality much larger than myself, a reality that allowed me to live the pain with hope . . . Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.’”
So this Gaudete Sunday, let us rejoice in the Lord, choose joy, in the face of the trials that beset us and our world, confident that we are held unconditionally in the love of God.
Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice!
Download service booklet here: Liturgy at Home Third Sunday of Advent December 12 2021