This antiphon (O’ Wisdom) said at vespers before the Magnificat, the Canticle of Mary, is the reason for the rose colored vestments. It is Guadete Sunday, and Guadete translates rejoice. From that canticle:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his humble servant.
These words start the joyous mysteries of the Rosary. The announcement, then the wait.
In today’s gospel reading Jn 1:6-8, 19-28 John the Baptist gives testament to his place in salvation history. The reading opens with:
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
In one romantic language the word birth translates “to bring into the light.” John’s testament is that this event is to occur soon.
From Isaiah Is 61:1-2a, 10-11 :
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.
I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
They echo Mary’s canticle, they speak of something new that comes after a long exile. They speak of something that is about to begin, not something that is about to end. The eager anticipation of the new beginning calls for rejoicing, and that beginning is after a long period of darkness and suffering. (Here is a side note. Isaiah addresses the Babylonian exile , the suffering and the eventual redemption of an exiled people. For John, the Roman occupation and the Hellenic culture were prominent, not to mention the likes of Herod. What can be said of ‘our time?”) It is an emotion that has been lost since Advent has been reimagined from a somber and preparative season, into a secular festive season. Guadete Sunday is an anticipation of a joy that is to come, after a darkness.
It is a contrast of hope against despair. Its the festive anticipation and proclamation of the dawn, not twilight. Might this be more noticeable with the lighting of a candle? Advent points to Christmas in time. That time is the festive day on a calendar, and it recalls that time in history. It also points towards the Christmas at the end of time, and possibly “at any time.” (another note: the Jewish calendar and the ancient one is based on a lunar calendar. Our modern calendar is based on a Roman Emperor. Economics have biased the secular “advent” calendar and the light -bulb has influenced our Circadian calendar. Calendars measure time) It is the preparation for an event that will occur, just as John the Baptist proclaimed. That message is forever proclaimed.
One should not miss that word proclamation, John the Baptist proclaimed that “there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” He proclaimed that the Christ was coming. Something to think about when sending “Christmas Cards.” Those cards proclaim an announcement, they make a statement, and they have a message. That message often is different than the message of cards found in the store. There is a reason for rejoicing, and that reason should be proclaimed. Preparation and proclamation.
Today is the Advent celebration of Saint Lucy’s Day, it is a festival of light. Lucy translates Lux or light, and her day occurs at the darkest time of year. Today also is the second day of Hanukkah, a festival of light.
Saint Lucy’s day is full of traditions, especially in Nordic countries. Hungary has the tradition of plants pot of wheat on this day. By Christmas that wheat will sprout to several centimeters in length, symbolic of the infant in the manger and the Body of Christ present in the Eucharist.
Next Sunday is Gaudete Sunday.