By Fr. George Rutler

Gaudete! Rejoice!

December 16, 2019
Column: From the Pastor

Gaudete!—Rejoice!—is the name for the Third Sunday of Advent. The rubrics say the Advent penances and discipline are somewhat mitigated on this day. Gaudete Sunday is a respite, rather like one of those “film trailers” that give a tantalizing glimpse of what is to come. Even so, the sonorous hymns and rose colors of Gaudete Sunday are awkward vaudeville rather than true drama, if there is no penance to lighten and no discipline to lessen. “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:24-25).

Saint Thomas Aquinas spent a lot of ink describing joy, just as Handel set “the joy of man’s desiring” to music. Joy is a fact that only the true God can give, and so it is more than a transient feeling of happiness. At the heart of human nature is the longing for joy, and this is the case even with miscreants who are deluded in thinking that sensuality, sloth, and even suicide will bestow a fugitive kind of happiness.

Advent is the guide to true joy, and it has become a Lost Season, just as Confession has become a Lost Sacrament, because our culture is impatient for joy and tries to be satisfied with tinsel happiness. Dr. Seuss’s “Grinch that stole Christmas” has a twin in the Grinch that stole Advent. This means that the beautiful hymnody and literature of Advent is swept away. Even organizations that claim to be Christian have Christmas parties in Advent. Excuses for “rushing” Christmas would be amusing were they not so pathetic. That sober modern prophet, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic disease of the twentieth century.” That disease has become epidemic in our new century.

Patience is one of the seven fruits of the Holy Spirit. It should strengthen the soul that is tempted to celebrate Christmas before Christmas. The excuse for doing that—“But everybody expects it”—merely means that the “Long expected Jesus” is not really expected. In contrast, persecuted Christians in diverse lands keep a more profound Advent, learning and living “all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:11). This has significant results. While persecution has driven Christianity in Iraq almost to extinction, the Chaldean Archbishop Najib Mikhael Moussa, has said that his people “lost everything except our faith in Jesus Christ” and are stronger for it. Moreover, he said, “many thousands of Muslims discovered the Person of Jesus Christ” after seeing the patient endurance of Christians.

In Advent, has your example brought anyone closer to the deep joy of Christ? “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22).


Fr. Rutler’s special note to readers:  Our parish of St. Michael’s is grateful to those parishioners and friends of the parish who generously donate to help meet its needs. Although our maintenance costs and obligations are high, our budget is as modest as we can make it. The parish relies especially on Christmas offerings. Thank you for all your support especially in these closing days of the civil calendar.

View Articles Father Rutler was ordained to the diaconate in Rome by His Eminence William Cardinal Baum in 1980 and received priestly ordination in St. Patrick's... MORE »

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