This Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday, which is taken from a line in St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: gaudete in Domino semper or in English, rejoice in the Lord always. This line began to be used in the Mass for the 3rd week of Advent because of the emphasis on the nearness of the Lord’s coming. In other words, this Sunday was made special to draw attention to how Christ isn’t just coming, He is coming very soon.
Like the best of our traditions, this came about very naturally. A long time ago, Advent was just like Lent in its length and spirit, but gradually started to take on a unique shape and tone. The first of these changes was the emphasis on the coming of Christ right in the middle of Advent, and this was done by making everything more joyful. There was more music allowed, fasting wasn’t required, and the prayers and readings were chosen to emphasize the goodness God has shown us. The implication here, of course, is that we remind ourselves of how wonderful God is to remind ourselves of what is to come.
So why is this in the middle of Advent? So that we get a wake-up call before it’s too late. This Sunday is a reminder of the Joy we look forward to, but Advent is still a season in which we are called to repent. We are given a reminder today that we are looking forward to something very special, and should be preparing for it by preparing our souls to receive God completely. So let this Gaudete Sunday serve its true purpose, and direct our hearts to the core of the Advent season. Let us rejoice in God’s goodness we have seen in our lives, and thus have Hope for what He has in store for us this Christmas.