Rejoice always. ~1 Thes 5:16
“Rejoice always.” Bold words. On this Gaudete Sunday, the theme of joy is clearly highlighted throughout the liturgy: from the Entrance Antiphon, to the Collect, to the Second Reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians. The sober hue of violet yields briefly to the brighter shade of rose. The Solemnity of the Lord’s Nativity is nigh! If Advent is such a brief liturgical season, and Christmas is so close, why then the need for this preemptive celebration or relaxation of Advent sobriety? What’s the point of Gaudete Sunday?
“Rejoice always.” It seems easy and intuitive enough to rejoice when things are good, calm, and predictable. When everything is going according to our plans, when the main event is occurring, joy flows naturally. In other words, rejoicing at the arrival of Christmas seems easy enough that it doesn’t require much prompting. But how good am I at rejoicing when things are not at optimal performance? I propose that this is one of the lessons to be gleaned from the occasion of Gaudete Sunday. Joy is the emotional consequence of being united to that which I love. If one loves chocolate, then eating chocolate brings one a certain degree of joy. The greater the thing that is loved, the more joy that is experienced when union with it is achieved. But for us, the disciples of the Lord, He is always united to us. He is Emmanuel, God-with-us. Even when times are abysmal, our supreme Love is always here in our midst. Consequently, whether we are partying like is 1999 or it’s a 2020 kind of year, our supreme joy is never inaccessible. But we forget that. Hence, the line that follows immediately after the command to rejoice always: “Pray without ceasing.” If you want to have joy everyday of your life; pray without ceasing.
Fr. Richard Hinkley