Walking in Expectation (Reflection on the Collect of the 3rd Sunday of Advent)

This Sunday is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday because of the first word of its entrance antiphon, “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, Gaudete,” (“[You all] Rejoice, in the Lord always: again I say rejoice”).[1] We on rejoice because the Lord is near; our joyful period of waiting is rapidly coming to a close. On the third Sunday of this season, we finally find reference to that which we are liturgically preparing to remember in the Collect.

O God, who see how your people
faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,
enable us, we pray,
to attain the joys of so great a salvation,
and to celebrate them always
with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

With this emphasis upon the upcoming feast of the Nativity, it could be tempting to consider this part of the Advent as discontinuous with the previous two weeks. However, to do so would cause us to miss the main point of the season: namely, that by remembering Israel’s longing for the Messiah, we are prepared to meet Christ in the Parousia. If the first two weeks of Advent focus on this reality of Christ’s second coming, then the latter two weeks are the Church’s way of holding up as an example of how we ought to wait.  The entire season is really a sacramental sign that points to the reality of our human condition at all times.

As an example to illustrate this, I offer my own experiences in childhood. When I was a boy, my brothers and I anxiously awaited the coming of Christmas morning – perhaps more because of the presents than the Christ-child – but nevertheless with great hope. As Christmas approached the excitement was palpable and on Christmas morning, we would awake very early in the morning to see what was under the tree and in our stockings. It is that sort-of wake-up-early-in-the-morning type of attitude that we should have at all times with regard towards our hope in the Savior who is coming. The joyful hope my brothers and I had in earthly goods during the Advent and Christmas season is supposed to be a sign of our joyful hope in Jesus Christ, the only one who is is worthy of such a hope.

Thus, when we await the feast of the Nativity, which is a sign of the Parousia yet to come, we should stand in hopeful, and joyful expectation that God will fulfill his promises to us. The concept of faithful, joyful waiting of the coming of the Messiah is at the heart the Advent season, which is itself a microcosm of the whole life of the Christian, who hopes in God, despite the many trials of this present vale of tears. Commenting on this phenomenon of waiting in hope, Pope Benedict XVI writes, “Mankind has never ceased to hope for better times; Christians hope that the Lord passes through the whole of history and that he will one day gather up all our tears and labors, so that everything will find its explanation and its fulfillment in his kingdom.”[2] We are a “people who walked in darkness”, but we “have seen a great light,” which is the coming fulfillment of the promises of God in the person of Jesus Christ.[3]

In the Collect, we ask that we be able to “celebrate … always” the joys of such a salvation, this is a plea that we might not forget the truth of the Incarnation. We are to keep the reality that God became man always before our eyes, and by this action allow our lives to be marked with great joy and great hope for our salvation who has come and will come again.

[1] Phillipians 4:4-5

[2] Benedict XVI, The Blessing of Christmas, trans. Brian McNeil (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007), 24.

[3] Isaiah 9:1

The mission of St. Mary Catholic Church is for all to KNOW, LOVE AND SERVE our Lord Jesus Christ; provide for the Catholic Educational needs of our children and adults, and proclaim the Good News of His Saving Grace to all we encounter.

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