Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Gaudate Sunday! Rejoice!

Rejoice, Rejoice Believers!

Good morning class, it is "Gaudete" Sunday. The word "Gaudeo" in Latin means "Rejoice". No doubt you noticed that we lit the Rose Candle on the Advent Wreath today. That's becuase we blend the white color of joy and expectation with the penetential purple color of preparation. This Rose Candle is the candle of "Gaudete Sunday". We celebrate the cardinal feast of the Third Sunday in Advent because of the nearness of the Holy Child of Bethlehem.

By the way, Rose vestments were permitted to be worn this day in the church year; one of only two Sundays in the Church year when the color Rose is used. The other Sunday is "Laetare" Sunday. The word "Laetare" means as in the introit psalm for that Sunday"O be Joyful O Jerusalem". We celebrate that cardinal feast on the Fourth Sunday in Lent  again because of the nearness of Christ's death and resurrection in Holy Week and Easter.

The scripture calls on us to "Rejoice" this day. The prophet Zephaniah calls out to "Rejoice with all your heart O Daughter of Jerusalem." He goes on to say "The Lord is in your midst." 

In Philippians we read "Rejoice in the Lord always" and "The Lord is near". 

John the Baptist recognized the innate sinful nature of the human condition; he greets those following him with the words; "You brood of vipers!" He seems to have gotten up on the wrong side of bed that day except that he knew that those who had two coats were not predisposed to share with those who had none. He also knew that tax collectors tended to exploit their position in life by taking advantage of their power and taking in more than the just amount owed from the tax payer. Sound familiar? Likewise extorion from soldiers was not unusual, and on it went and when asked what was necessary for them all to repent, John merely said, do the right thing; share what you have with others, collect only what is owed to you, and be done with extortion and be content with your wages. He concluded the passage with the Gospel proclamation, and a joyful one it was, that the one to come after him would baptize us not just with water but with the Holy Spirit and with Fire. Rejoice then in the proclamation of the Gospel. Listen to it and proclaim it in your lives!

These are the words of the Introit Psalm of Gaudete Sunday in ancient times. "Rejoice in the Lord always" and "The Lord is near". 

You meay notice that this joy comes to us at a dark time of year. Its not the shortness of the days that produces this darkness alone, but there are some dreadful events near and far away that reflect a dark dimension of the human spirit. The shootings in San Bernadino and Colorado among them. Good heavens there's even the business of a runaway train on the T. And much more darkness beside of allsorts.

It is in the midst of this very darkness that we light this beautiful Rose candle and pray the Collect of the Day "Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great power come among us, and because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us".

Sorely hindered by so many sins indeed. So much violence, so much hatred. So little love. Or so it seems. Particularly so when we spend too much time glued in to the media and fix our gaze on the chronicle of the sins of humankind, its violence and its hatred.

Gaudete Sunday stands in stark contrast to all this sin. "Stir up Your Power". Yes, "because we are sorely hindered by our sins". "Stir up your power and come among us." This is precisely the promise of Gaudete Sunday. We have the promise of the nearness of God. In just a few short days we will celebrate the Birth of the Holy Child in the Manger. 

If we were to read our history books, we would notice that this is by no means the darkest of times. And if we read our Sacred History we may remember how heroicly our ancestors in faith faced the darkness with amazing transformational courage.

Take Dame Julian of Norwich for instance. Not a household name perhaps but familiar to all who study the history of Christian Spirituality in any depth. Dame Julian was born on November 8, 1342 and died in 1416AD. She was an anchoress. which is to  say, she separated herself from secular society, not as a hermit, but as one set aside in a small cell at the church in Norwich, England. She devoted herself to prayer and Eucharistic life and made herself available to folks who would seek her out for spiritual guidance and counsel, through a small window in her enclosure.

She was sought out by many because the times in which she lived were not just dark times but catatrostophic. The Black Death and the Peasant Revolts were the scourge of contemporary life for her and her beloved people. Contemporary theology was legalistic and judgmental. But Julian saw God as loving and compassionate and seeking the salvation of all. She was accused of believing in universal salvation. She believed that behind the reality of hell there was the greater mystery of God's love. She saw the universe resting in God's hands as it were a hazel nut, beloved of God, and that each soul within was the beloved of God. 

She is believed to be the first woman to have written a book in the English language. "Revelations of Divine Love" is a masterpiece of midaeval mysticism and I commend it to you for reading.

There is an expression she used with quiet confidence to all who came to her, in whatever state of anxiety, fear, depression, guilt or despair. She very quietly assured all who came to her; "All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well". 

Nowadays we might say; "Keep calm and carry on." 

But it is the same message.  Our times may seem like dark times but when compared to the times in which Dame Julian lived and so many others, we certainly can rise to the occasion. 

Particularly so in our spirituality. We are called to Rejoice. More than that we are called to recognize the nearness of Jesus within our hearts and in the hearts of those around us. 

And so; "Stir up your power O God and come among us, and because we are sorely hindered by our sins come speedily with your Grace and Power."

In the Name of the Holy, Blessed and Undivided Trinity. Amen

Fr Paul

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