Gaudete Sunday. Today is “Gaudete Sunday,” or “Rejoice Sunday” (from the first words of the entrance antiphon, “Gaudéte in Dómino semper”— “Rejoice in the Lord always”). This reminds us that Advent is a season of “expectant joy” as our anticipation of the great joy of Christmas builds everyday as we draw closer to it.
We all feel this building joy during Advent—at least I hope we do. First and foremost, we experience this spiritually, in our prayers and meditation on the mystery of Christmas, and in reception of the sacraments. In this regard, I encourage you to go to confession this week—we rejoice because Christ was born to save us from our sins and he pours out this salvation in this holy sacrament—there’s nothing like the joy experienced in having our sins forgiven. Remember, we have will have at least 2 priests hearing confessions every evening this week, Monday through Friday. I also encourage you to attend daily Mass: remember this week we have an additional Mass on Friday evening at 7pm, in the Extraordinary Form (it’s a beautiful way of experiencing the Mass.)
Of course, this growing spiritual joy also overflows into our practical lives during this season, and expresses itself in many of the customs of this season, many of which illustrate how this joy gradually builds as we approach the source of our joy, Christmas. We see this, for example, in how the decoration of our homes get more and more “Christmassy” as the days of Advent pass. In this respect, many have observed how I don’t put Christmas decorations in the church for Advent. One reason I do that (besides liturgical custom) is because decorations abound all over the place outside of our church, too often lacking any sense of gradualness or progression, so I think it’s important to show a contrast in our liturgies—to remind us that He is not here yet, that we are waiting and preparing for Him.
Even so, we do incorporate this progression in the church in several ways, including the Advent wreathe, the selection of hymns at Mass, and the rose vestments on Gaudete Sunday. Another important way I like to express this is by celebrating “Lessons and Carols,” which will take place in the church this evening at 7pm. Contrary to what some may fear, “lessons” does not involve a series of lectures from me—it is merely an old English term for “readings from Scripture.” Readers will proclaim key prophetic texts from the Old Testament as well as pre-nativity texts from the Gospels that draw us into a sense of Israel’s centuries of expectation of the coming of the Messiah, and the joy that grew as the day drew closer. The choir will then lead us in beautiful Advent songs and a few more complicated choral pieces that cannot help but fill our hearts with a true foretaste of Christmas joy. (This year a small reception afterwards will give us a foretaste of that joy as we consume some delicious seasonal treats). Please join us.
Still another practical way we experience this progressive joy is through acts of generosity. I don’t know about you, but this is one of the things I enjoy most about Christmas. I’m sure all of you have been showing special charity to those around you, through ordinary acts of kindness revealing the joy of Christ in your hearts. But we also experience this in a special way through gift-giving. Sometimes this can be reduced to materialism, so we need to be careful, to make the Christmas gifts we buy in some way a genuine reflection of our Christian joy. One simple way to do that is to give religious gifts, e.g., giving Bibles, hand missals, rosaries, Catholic spiritual classic books, statues, medals, manger scenes, etc.
Another way is through making donations to worthy Catholic groups who will receive them with the joy of Christ. A few of the groups that I would recommend are Divine Mercy Care, Project Rachel, Gabriel Project, AAA Women for Choice (a pro-life group in Manassas), Mary’s Shelter, House of Mercy, the Poor Clare Monastery, and, of course, Angelus Academy. One of my personal favorite charities is St. Dominic Monastery in Linden, VA, the wonderful cloistered Dominican sisters who pray for our parish daily.
Giving Today. Let me also propose two great ways to give today. First, today’s second collection is for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. I’ve spoken many times about how pleased I am with the work of CCDA in the last few years, especially in their renewed emphasis on fidelity to Christ and His Church, and in their attentiveness to the needs that pastors see in their parishes, especially in offering affordable psychological, marital and family counselling, in the context of our Catholic faith. If you forgot your envelope today, feel free to drop it off or mail it to the parish office early this week.
Second, there are still quite a few tags remaining on the “Giving Tree” in the narthex, and the deadline for returning gifts is tomorrow, Monday, December 14. Please visit the trees after Mass and consider helping to make Christmas a little more joyful for families who are having a rough time this year.
Our Blessed Mother, Mary. A very important way we experience the joyful expectation of Advent is our annual celebration of the Holy Day of the Immaculate Conception. Who better to draw us to understand the joy of celebrating the birth of Jesus than His own Mother, Mary. I have to tell you how proud I was, as your spiritual father, to see so many of you come to Mass on the Holy Day. I know you “have to,” but I also know that you wouldn’t come unless you also wanted to.
To continue to learn from the joy of our Blessed Mother, I encourage you to join me this Thursday as I conclude my Advent Series with the topic “Mary, Beloved Daughter of the Father,” drawing largely from the work of Benedict XVI. Please join me.
Year of Mercy. This last Tuesday the Church began a “Jubilee Year of Mercy.” We will discuss this more in the coming weeks, especially its purpose and the particular events and opportunities to avail ourselves of God’s mercy in a special way in the coming year. Yet another reason to “Rejoice.”
Gift Shop Manager. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am looking for someone to manage the parish Gift Shop, located in the narthex of the church. The Gift Shop is a great way to promote our faith by offering parishioners access to religious items and books right here in our own “home.” It is a very small operation, and only operates before and after Sunday Masses, and a few other events, and there is an excellent crew of volunteers to assist the manager. If you are interested in volunteering for this important position, please call the parish office.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles