I learned, completely by accident, that the third Sunday of Advent (i.e. today) is called “Gaudete Sunday,” which I will presently explain. I learned this from a holiday party with my girlfriends last night, at which one of them (who shall remain nameless) can be anal and highly competitive, and made up these lists of “Christmas Trivia” questions. (I can say bad things about her because she knows I love her and she helped deliver my baby, and therefore, we have no secrets from each other. None at all.) Anyway, one of the questions we heard, at least while we were still paying attention to her and her lists, was “What is the 3rd Sunday of Advent called?” None of us knew, not even the practicing Catholic, although I think her guess was the closest. The answer is “Gaudete Sunday,” and as I said, I will explain why this matters shortly. The main thing to know, and actually the main thing that is important about the word “Gaudete” is that it means “Rejoice,” and this party, this gathering of five of the most gorgeous women I know, contained so much rejoicing that at one point I had to go outside because I was afraid I was going to vomit from laughing so hard. And the only thing we were drinking was Fresca.
So, “Gaudete Sunday” is all about rejoicing, and we could sure use a lot of that right now, couldn’t we? Wikipedia says that, “Despite the otherwise somber readings of the season of Advent, which has as a secondary theme the need for penitence, the readings on the third Sunday emphasize the joyous anticipation of the Lord’s coming.” And as I have said before, and firmly believe, it doesn’t matter what, if any spiritual tradition you are part of; being alive is spiritual tradition enough for any of us, and when someone tells me it’s time to rejoice, I’m going to rejoice.
Would you consider writing in and telling me what you are rejoicing about right now? Not just what you are grateful for, but what causes your heart to lift up, your breath to catch, your eyes to tear up, even if it was just for one small moment, even if you have to dig deep to remember it. Please let me know; it would be a gift.
Gaudete Sunday begins with an “introit,” or opening, which is a recitation of a verse from Philippians, and a part of a Psalm. I don’t know how it works, but I looked up the verse and the Psalm, and they are quite lovely. And they seem to fit so perfectly with the themes that we’ve been developing about shelter, protection, and belonging.
Here is the verse from Philippians (and if Biblical language puts you off, pretend it’s a poem, because essentially that’s what it is, as well as being particularly good advice):
“Always be joyful, then, in the Lord; I repeat, be joyful. Let your good sense be obvious to everybody. The Lord is near. Never worry about anything; but tell God all your desires of every kind in prayer and petition shot through with gratitude, and the peace of God which is beyond our understanding will guard your hearts and your thoughts” (Phil 4: 4-7).
One of the several things I love about this verse is that it reminds me of something I read in one of Jan Karon’s Mitford novels. The main character, an Anglican priest, often reminds people that God does not want us to come to him begging, but to come as we truly are: as children of the King. This feels very empowering to me. We have the right to ask for what we need, to believe, even to assume, that we are seen and heard and valued.
Here is a piece of the Psalm: “Even the sparrow has found a home,/the swallow a nest to place its young” (Psalm 84:2).
It’s all about belonging, coming home, and being protected. And rejoicing.
I’m rejoicing that a wound in my family is healing, that I stood under the moon last night with my friend and laughed, that there is poetry that keeps my soul fed and vibratingly alive, that there are beautiful linens on my table that would not be there if my mother hadn’t reminded me that coming together at the table is sacred, even when you’re only eating meatloaf and arguing about how many bites of potatoes must be consumed. I’m rejoicing for each and every one of you who are taking this Advent journey with me.
Here is a good Sunday poem (I stole it from today’s Writer’s Almanac). It’s a good reminder of what we need at this time of the year, and how vulnerable, and yet (or perhaps, and therefore) open to comfort we are, when we are just human. Rejoice.
Weekends, Sleeping In
No jump-starting the day,
no bare feet slapping the floor
to bath and breakfast.
in the nest
like, I suppose,
a pair of gophers
in fuzz and wood shavings.
One jostles the other
in closed-eye luxury.
We are at last
what we are: