As we make our way through Advent we are not alone. Not only are several hundred of us making this daily Food For Faith pilgrimage, but we are preparing for Christmas as a part of the praying church, that is united with those for whom the Hours of the Church’s liturgy are the stuff of daily work: think of monks and nuns who chant the Liturgy of the Church’s Hours every day.
There are two things that these chanting monks and nuns will notice this week that carry a helpful message for us too.
Firstly, today is “Rejoicing” Sunday
Today, the third Sunday of Advent, is the day on which the rose-coloured candle of the Advent wreath is lit since this Sunday is named as “Gaudete” or “rejoicing” Sunday.
The name comes from the first word of the Introit of today’s Mass: “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. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.” Philippians 4:4–6; (note this Introit is rarely heard in parishes since it is usually replaced by an entrance hymn, but our chanting nuns and monks will know it well.)
Pope Francis preaching on Gaudete Sunday in 2014 said:
“On this Sunday, the Church, looks forward to the joy of Christmas, and that is why it is called “Gaudete Sunday”. In this season, a time of preparation for Christmas, we wear violet vestments, but today they are pink for the blossoming of Christmas joy. And the joy of Christmas is a special joy; but it is a joy that isn’t just for the day of Christmas, it is for the entire life of a Christian. It is a serene and tranquil joy, a joy that forever accompanies the Christian. Even in difficult moments, in moments of difficulty, this joy becomes peace. When he is a true Christian, the Christian never loses his peace, even in suffering. That peace is a gift from the Lord. Christian joy is a gift from the Lord. “Ah, Father, we’ll have a nice big luncheon, everybody will be happy”. This is lovely, a nice luncheon is good; but this isn’t the Christian joy we are talking about today. Christian joy is something else. It brings us together to celebrate, it’s true. Thus the Church wants you to understand what Christian joy is.
“The Apostle St Paul says to the Thessalonians: “rejoice always”. And how can I rejoice? He says: “pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances”.
Secondly: the “O” Antiphons
In the Liturgy of the Church, the Vespers antiphons which begin and conclude the Magnificat canticle for the seven days from today (December 17) until the day before Christmas Eve (23 December). The first of these “O Antiphons” are also used as the Alleluia verse of the Mass, and each of the seven antiphons present one of the scriptural attributes of Christ.
The well-known paraphrase of the O Antiphons is sung below by NZ’s Hayley Westenra in the second video below.
Over the next seven days the Food For Faith reflection will conclude with the O Antiphon of the day. Each of these antiphons gives much food for prayer focussing on a central aspect of the person of Christ beginning with today’s antiphon: O Wisdom:
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
Hayley Westenra sings O Come O Come Emmanuel below.