Gaudete.

Advent wreath for week 3Today is Gaudete Sunday, which is this blog’s name day, as I wrote last year. Gaudete means “rejoice.”

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!

But in light of Friday’s tragic events, how do we rejoice? Why do we rejoice? Is it even proper to rejoice?

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.

Andrew Staron says it well:

We as a church are invited to rejoice, not because we are happy (for we often are not, and today too many of us are not) and not so we might become happy, but because it is the means by which we hope. It is the means, the only means by which we hold tightly, ever more tightly, to the promise.

Liturgy isn’t always about how we feel, in the moment. The church’s liturgical texts are sometimes at odds with how we feel. Their words do not always express what is in our hearts. Sometimes, as today, the disconnect may be almost violently incongruous.

We pray the texts anyway. We pray them because our liturgy is universal as well as personal, and the words surely match what’s in somebody’s heart, somewhere, so we pray with and for them. We pray them because our story is always part of the larger story of salvation history.

And we pray them, especially when they are joyful words in the midst of sorrow, as an act of faith and hope.

Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.

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