Gaudete Sunday

Advent wreath for week 3

Happy Gaudete Sunday!

It’s the third Sunday of Advent: we light the pink candle on the Advent wreath, we dress our altar and our priest in pink, and we rejoice! which is what Gaudete means.

When I was a kid, I was told we rejoice because the pink candle means that Christmas is almost here, and the season of Advent (which was formerly observed in a spirit of penitence) is almost over. But I was not entirely convinced: you would think that if that were the reason, it would be the fourth Sunday, not the third.

Later I understood that what we were marking was that we’d passed the halfway point: with four Sundays in Advent, we are more than halfway there.

This year, as I’ve been praying with my Advent wreath every night, my eyes keep straying to that pink candle and I think about how, once it is lit, the lit candles outnumber the dark ones. And about how, as we’ve been hearing at Mass these few weeks, Advent is not only about preparing to remember the coming of Christ as an infant at Christmas — it is also about looking forward to his second coming in the fullness of time.

And Gaudete Sunday? Reminds us that we live in the already-and-not-yet. Rejoice always, Paul writes to the Christians of Thessalonica. Again I say, rejoice! Christ’s life and death and resurrection has changed everything, has already accomplished the victory over sin and death: it has only to finish being worked out. The light outshines the darkness. We live our whole lives in pink-candle-time. Rejoice!

To close this post on what is my blog’s name day, I thought I’d share my second-favorite Advent hymn. (My favorite is, of course, O come, o come Emmanuel.) I didn’t grow up with this one, but I really love it because it connects what we actually do at this time of year with the season we are celebrating.

People, Look East
— Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965)

People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.


Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in due course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.

Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

Small Advent wreath lit for Gaudete Sunday

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5 Responses to Gaudete Sunday

  1. thewaterisfine says:

    I totally shared what you said about the light outweighing the dark at this point in the season during my children’s sermon today! We counted how many candles were lit (one, one candle, two, two candle…) and how many were dark and realized that the light does indeed outshine the darkness. Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

  2. Andrew says:

    “we rejoice! which is what Gaudete means.”

    I should have figured that out – after all, in L’Engle’s “A Swiftly Tilting Planet” there’s a character named “Gaudior” which is explained as meaning “that joy, without which, the universe would fall apart and collapse”

  3. Pingback: Gaudete. | Gaudete Theology

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