Gaudete Sunday, Tragedy, and Hope


Today is the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday. Translated from the Latin, it is the Sunday of Rejoicing—Christmas is less than two weeks away.

But the call to rejoice today, this particular Sunday, gives us pause.

Vulnerability, brokenness, and real tragedies have always marked this time of year for many of us. The sadness of missing loved ones, the anxiety of painful family situations, and the loneliness of everyday life can be all the more acute standing stark against the merriment and anticipation that almost shout this time of year. Vulnerability, brokenness, and real tragedies are perhaps no more present today than any other day—but on this day we, as a community, are more attentive. We are aware, perhaps, of the strangeness of rejoicing amidst the brokenness of our world.

To be invited to rejoice even though Christmas has not yet come, indeed is little different than what we are called to each and every day. We are called to continue to await—eagerly, desperately perhaps—for peace on earth, for tidings of Good News, for God With Us. We await the fulfillment of the promise: The old order passes away. I will wipe away every tear and there shall be no more death, no more mourning, and no more pain.

We as a church are invited to rejoice, not because we are happy (for we often are not, and today too many of us are not) and not so we might become happy, but because it is the means by which we hope. It is the means, the only means by which we hold tightly, ever more tightly, to the promise. We are an Advent people, no more today than any other day. But today, on this day of rejoicing, we wait more attentively. We sing Come, O Come Emmanuel with more care, more attention to its anguished words, its yearning cadence, and its trembling hope.

Today is Gaudete Sunday. It is a day marked by hope in what is always coming and not yet fully come, by hope in the promise of the one who makes all things new.

A Prayer to our Mother of Sorrows
 Our mother of sorrows,
with strength from above you stood by the cross,
sharing in the sufferings of Jesus,
and with tender care
you bore Him in your arms, mourning and weeping.
Holy Mary,
may we follow your example,
and stand by all your children
who need comfort and love.
Mother of God,
stand by us in our trials
and care for us in our many needs.
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.