December 17, 2017

As we move into the third week of Advent our scriptures and prayers take a decided turn toward our celebration of Christmas. For two weeks we have been looking forward to the coming of the Lord at the end of time. As we have prayed in our Preface for Mass during these early days of Advent, “…that when he comes again in glory and majesty, and all is at last made manifest, we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise in which now we dare to hope…”

Today, on this Third Sunday of Advent, we begin to look back to that mind-boggling event when God entered into our human history in flesh and blood. The hope which inspires us to look forward to his coming again was born in a manger in Bethlehem. That hope, the Word-Made-Flesh, was heralded by John the Baptist in the desert, and announced to the Virgin Mary at Nazareth.

Our shift in focus on this Sunday is made visible in the rose vestments we wear and the rose candle that we light. Today’s Third Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday, from a Latin word that means “rejoice.” It is as if the Church is saying to us, here’s a glimpse, during Advent, of the Christmas celebrations to come.

Beginning today, and for the remaining days of Advent, the Preface for our Mass will reflect this anticipation of celebrating the great Solemnity of Christmas. We pray, “For all the oracles of the prophets foretold him, the Virgin Mother longed for him with love beyond all telling, John the Baptist sang of his coming and proclaimed his presence when we came. It is by his gift that already we rejoice at the mystery of his Nativity, so that he may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise.”

The Advent Season is very short this year, lasting four Sundays, but only three weeks. Next Sunday - at the Saturday Vigil Mass, and the Sunday morning Masses - we will hear that beautiful and familiar story of the Annunciation from Luke’s Gospel. It is the same Gospel we heard on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It is a Gospel passage that I never tire of hearing!

Following the morning Masses, a few short hours later, we begin our celebration of Christmas with our Christmas Eve Masses. Some folks have asked me if they can simply go to the Christmas Eve Masses to satisfy their Sunday obligation as well as their Christmas obligation. The answer is no. For us, we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent, either Saturday night or Sunday morning, December 23rd or 24th, then we return and celebrate Christmas, either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day.

Then, what begins next Sunday evening and Monday morning, is a celebration of the Christmas Season that lasts until Monday, January 8. Unlike our secular culture, which has been celebrating Christmas since before Thanksgiving, we have spent weeks preparing for Christmas, and then we spend weeks celebrating the incredible gift of God coming among us as a human being.

As we move into this third, and this year, last, week of Advent, may we prepare well for the coming of who the Baptist calls “the Light.” May Jesus Christ, the Savior, the one who has come, who comes to us in the Eucharist, and who will come again in glory, be the true light that enlightens our minds and hearts.

Happy Gaudete Sunday!

Fr. Gary Lazzeroni