This Sunday looks and feels a little different than other Sundays in Advent. We light the rose colored candle today at Mass and, if one is available, a priest may also wear a rose colored vestment. The reason for these subtle changes in our Advent celebration is because it is “Gaudete Sunday,” which we always celebrate on the third Sunday of Advent.
Why does this Sunday receive the name “Gaudete?” The answer to that question is a liturgical one. Many of us know that the Church is rooted in Sacred Scripture and that the presence of Scripture is ubiquitous in the Mass. Even before the sign of the cross, during the entrance procession, the Church provides scripture to pray and sing for every day of the year. This is the entrance antiphon with its accompanying psalm or canticle.
We don’t often hear these Scripture passages anymore as we have generally opted to replace them with entrance hymns. However, it is from this Sunday’s entrance Scripture that it derives its name. This antiphon, with its accompanying Psalm, is as follows:
Antiphon—”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.” Philippians 4:4-6
Psalm—”Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.” Psalm 85:2
The antiphon is repeated before and after the Psalm. You will note that the very first word of that antiphon is “rejoice!” In Latin that word is “gaudete,” from which we derive the name of today’s celebration.
The antiphon and Psalm together express why this Sunday has a slightly different character than the other Sundays in Advent. We acknowledge that we are drawing close to the celebration of the coming of the Lord who is “near at hand.” Since he is near, we are to “have no anxiety about anything.” Instead, “by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving” we offer our petitions to Him with confidence, knowing that He is the one who blesses us and brings us the freedom of the children of God.
Gaudete! “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!”