Today is Gaudete Sunday in the Roman Church. The name is taken from the first word of the Introit at Mass, which in English reads: “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.” A large portion of the text is taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, which is also the Epistle reading for this day.
Unlike the other Sundays and ferias of Advent, the somber and penitential tones are set aside for one of joyous expectation at the coming of the Lord. A parallel moment of interrupting joy can be found in the Byzantine Rite’s use of the same epistle on Palm Sunday, which looks just past the mournfulness of Holy Week to the Resurrection which triumphs over all.
It is in the Incarnation and Resurrection — not clever sermons, whimsical statements of intramundane comfort, and emotive spiritualism — that Catholics are to find true joy. We are not bound together by our participation in the ecclesial version of the United Nations and the rhetoric of social justice, but by our common faith that the Word of God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, became a little child, suffered, died, and rose again for the life of the world.