16 December 2012
With the Saints through Advent (17): 16 December, Gaudete Sunday and Saint John the Baptist
Today [16 December 2012] is the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday. It received this name because the traditional Entrance Antiphon or Introit for Gaudete Sunday is based on Philippians 4: 4-5 and Psalm 85: 1: “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. Lord, you were favourable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.”
We shall hear some of these words again in the Epistle reading in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings for this morning (Philippians 4: 4-7).
Violet or purple is the normal liturgical colour throughout Advent, but on Gaudete Sunday, having passed the mid-point of Advent, the Church lightens the mood a little, and in many parts of the Church the liturgical colour changes on this Sunday to rose, encouraging us to continue our spiritual preparation for Christmas with prayer and fasting.
For this reason too, the third candle of the Advent Wreath which is lit on Gaudete Sunday is traditionally rose-coloured. That candle also reminds us of Saint John the Baptist, just as the previous candles remind us of the Patriarchs (Advent 1) and the Prophets (Advent 2).
More than any other saint, Saint John the Baptist embodies the spirit of the Season of Advent.
Saint John the Baptist, who is at the centre of our Gospel reading this morning, is the patron saint of spiritual joy and rejoicing. After all, he leapt for joy in his mother’s womb at the presence of the Christ Child with Mary (Luke 1: 44), and he rejoices to hear the bridegroom’s voice (John 3: 29-30).
Crowds were coming from all over the land to hear John long before anyone knew about Christ, and it is John’s baptism that launches Christ’s public ministry.
Saint John encourages his disciples to leave him and to follow the Lamb of God. When people came, ready to honour John as the messiah, he pointed them to Christ. In his humility, Saint John the Baptist could rejoice truly, pointing away from himself to Christ.
Zephaniah 3: 14-20; Psalm 146: 5-10; Philippians 4: 4-7; Luke 3: 7-18.
O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.
Post Communion Prayer:
we give you thanks for these heavenly gifts.
Kindle us with the fire of your Spirit
that when Christ comes again
we may shine as lights before his face;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Tomorrow (17 December): ‘O Sapientia’ and Saint Elizabeth
Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christi Church Cathedral, Dublin.
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In your Glorious name Jesus.
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