It’s Almost Christmas! I can’t believe the big day is almost here—as I wrote 2 weeks ago, this is the shortest Advent possible, 3 weeks and 1 day.
Today is called Gaudete Sunday or “Rejoice Sunday.” It takes its name from the “Introit” of the Mass (the “entrance antiphon” we say if we don’t sing during the entrance procession), taken from Philippians 4: “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Dominus enim prope est.” “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.”
Today Holy Mother Church calls us to remember the true cause of our Joy in this season: the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ into the world 2000 years ago to save us from sin and evil, and invite us to share in His life of love, beginning in this world and perfected in the next.
It’s natural to ask, how do we “rejoice always,” when we so often have real reasons to be sad? Of course, there are times when we’re going to experience sadness and even terrible sorrow. But in Christ we find something more than smiles and laughter. We find a deep abiding joy, knowing that the Eternal Creator and Redeemer of all things loves us and will never abandon us to evil. So that even when weighted down by grief and trials we find hope and the grace to remain steadfast in our faith and love. This is “indeed” cause to rejoice.
Usually, Gaudete Sunday is about 2 weeks before Christmas, but this year Christmas is just 8 days away. I know there’s an awful lot going on in the next few days: last minute shopping, travelling, etc. But rather than allowing all the busyness to distract you, try to make real time to prepare yourself for this celebration. Avoid all sin. Try to show charity, patience and compassion to your neighbor, especially your family members, at every moment—be helpful, not harmful, to family peace. And love God above everything and with everything. Take time to pray, go to confession and weekday Mass. And throughout your day, wherever you are, take small moments to place yourself in the company and care of Mary and Joseph. Imagine them travelling on the rocky roads of Galilee and Judea, from Nazareth down to Bethlehem, exposed to the elements, walking all that way or, perhaps, aided by a donkey. Perhaps today, just 8 days before the birth, they were just setting out on their journey. Imagine how every day they were a little closer, but a little wearier and colder. Think of their struggle, but also their joy. For they were not traveling alone: “God their Savior” was with them in Mary’s womb. Travel with them these next few days in prayer. Stop from time to time at work, and wonder, “where are you now, Mary and Joseph, and Baby Jesus?” Come to church for a quiet visit, and say to them, “perhaps you are stopping to rest now—let me rest with you.” Accompany them on their journey—and do not get too distracted by the craziness of the “holiday season.”
Confession. If you haven’t been to confession this Advent, please go this week—there’s nothing like the joy experienced in having our sins forgiven, and no better way to prepare for Christmas. Remember, we have will have at least 2 priests, and sometimes 3, hearing confessions every evening this week, Monday through Friday. We will also have our regular confessions next Saturday, December 23, but we not have confessions next Sunday, December 24.
Next Sunday is Christmas Eve: What is your Mass Obligation? Because Christmas falls on Monday this year, the celebration of it obviously begins on the evening before, on Sunday, with Christmas Eve. This will cause some confusion for many of us. For example, do you have to go to Mass on both Sunday and Christmas Day (Monday)? Can you go to one Mass on Sunday evening to count for both your regular Sunday and Christmas Day Mass obligation? So let me try to clarify some things.
First of all, we all know that Catholics must go to Mass on Sunday. But remember, Christmas is a Holy Day of Obligation, so you must go to Mass on Christmas too. That means you have to go to TWO Masses, one for Sunday and one for Christmas.
Now, the general rule for Sundays and Holy Days is that you can fulfill your Mass obligation by going to Mass on either the day of or on the evening before. So, to fulfill your obligation for next Sunday you can go to Mass on Saturday evening or on Sunday. And to fulfill your obligation for Christmas you can go to Mass on Monday (Christmas Day) or Sunday evening. But you must go to one Mass for each, two Masses!
Next Sunday morning, December 24, we will have a regular Sunday Mass schedule (7am, 8:45am, 10:30am and 12:15pm). But in the evening, instead of our usual Sunday 5pm Mass we will have three Vigil Masses for Christmas: 4pm, 6pm and 8pm (and also midnight). I recommend you fulfill your Sunday Mass obligation on Saturday night or Sunday morning, and your Christmas Mass obligation on Sunday evening or on Monday. That keeps things simple and clear.
[But if you want to complicate things…. If you go to one of the Sunday evening Masses (December 24th) you can “count” that EITHER for your Sunday obligation (since it is still Sunday) OR for your Christmas obligation (since it’s a Vigil Mass for Christmas). But you can NOT “count” it for both days—there is no “two for” here. If you count that evening Mass on the 24th for your Sunday obligation, you have to go to Mass again on Monday (Christmas Day); or if you count it for your Christmas obligation, you must also attend an earlier Mass on Sunday (or the Vigil Mass on Saturday evening). I hope that’s not too confusing. It probably is. Just remember: two Masses!]
Lessons and Carols. Wow! What a beautiful evening we had last Sunday. The readings from Scripture were inspiring, and our amazing choir out did themselves in singing various choral pieces and leading us in Advent hymns. Our largest L&C crowd ever—over 400 people—left filled with the joy and hope of the season. Thanks to our choir and organist, and especially to our inimitable Music Director, Elisabeth Turco. And thanks also to Eva Radel and Angelus Academy for the fun reception afterwards.
Correction to Missalette. In the introduction to last Sunday’s readings, the publisher of our missalette wrote that “The author of Second Peter wrote…about one hundred years after Jesus,” or about 130AD. Nonsense. Tradition and orthodox scholarship hold that the letter was written by St. Peter himself before he died around 66AD. I repeat my caveat: please be careful if you choose to read these introductions—they are so often wrong. I apologize for having to use them, and continue to search for a better missalette.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles