Gaudete Sunday

I have always enjoyed the Gaudete Sunday experience. Gaudete is the Latin word for “Rejoice”. It is the first word of the Introit/Entrance for today’s liturgy in the Catholic tradition (and, indeed, in the Anglican and Lutheran traditions also). On Friday last I prepared a Gaudete prayer that featured a beautiful version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Enya that includes a particularly haunting Gaudete chant.

One of the losses in our celebration of the liturgy since 1962 has been the absolute dearth, it seems to me, of good liturgical commentary. Just recently, I was lucky enough to find a copy of the first volume of Dr. Pius Parsch’s <emYear of Grace (Jahr des Heils) in a charity bookshop. Reading his commentaries on the Advent liturgies as they existed at that time brings me back in time to the Mass as I knew it growing up. Everyone had a missal. It was a traditional Confirmation gift in those days. Another charity shop purchase a few years ago netted me a copy of the St Andrew Missal from 1962 in good condition.

I have to admit an enjoyment, probably born of nostalgia, in reading the Latin texts that one finds in those old missals. However, what really draws me in are the commentaries provided for the Sundays and the major feasts. They are unlike most of the commentaries that I hear in sermons and read in popular religious magazines. John Waters, of whom I am a fan, has pointed out the tendency to moralise that was once a feature of the Catholic Church in its public positions.

To some extent this remains a feature of most sermons today. Sermons tend to focus exclusively on the application of the Gospel texts to daily living. No harm in that sure. None whatever. But just for once it would be good to hear a commentary or homily that raised the bar a bit, that opened up for us what the old liturgists used to call the ‘mystery’, that sense of being caught up in something beyond ourselves. The Church as the People of God is both in time and yet outside time. That sounds like gibberish, I know. But there is a sense in which we are all connected with the cosmic and universal dimensions of Creation. Science is even now telling us that the sub-atomic world of particles is awash with life and communication. Mystery is all around us. Good liturgy brings us into this domain of the non-everyday.

I trawled the blogs to find a good contemporary commentary on Gaudete Sunday. They were few in number. Some of the best are from the traditionalists and the new liturgical movement people; unfortunately, they tended to get caught up in the aesthetics of the vestments for Gaudete Sunday. It is the only Sunday in the liturgical year when the priest is encouraged to wear rose vestments. These blogs were educational but not what I wanted.

Finally, I came across a blog by Dr Gerard Nadal that offered a very contemporary reflection inspired in part by his experience of working with young people  on the streets in New York in times past. The reflection was captured perfectly by the short film, Change for a Dollar. It brought me swiftly down to earth from my earlier morning reveries to the grace of the present moment!



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