Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Happy Gaudete Sunday! Today the Church replaces the somber violet with rose vestments to celebrate the nearing of Christmas and the approaching end of our solemn preparations. Gaudete, translated from the Latin as “rejoice,” comes from the entrance antiphon of today’s Mass: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed the Lord is near.” As we approach Christmas, perhaps not unlike children, we should be filled with an excitement to celebrate the coming of our Lord into the world.
This week also serves as the dividing mark of our Advent reflections. To this point, we’ve been preparing for the coming of Christ at the end of time, where our Gospel readings have been challenging us to “Stay awake!” and “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” But beginning on the 17th, our focus shifts to that coming of Christ 2,000 years ago. The readings take a marked turn, and we celebrate what it meant for God to become incarnate in that little town of Bethlehem.
One particularly beautiful bit of Catholic spiritual culture that we find in this time, which is often overlooked, is the “O Antiphons.” In the Liturgy of the Hours, which every priest and religious promises to pray five times a day, each day during evening prayer the Magnificat is recited, that prayer in which Our Blessed Mother proclaims “My soul magnifies the Lord, and My spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” Before reciting it though, an antiphon is read which offers a point of meditation, and during the seven days before Christmas, the O Antiphons are read. These can be traced back over 1,000 years, and each contains a Messianic title of Christ found in the Old Testament. Each day, therefore, the Church reflects on how Christ has fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament and offers us an opportunity to realize how Christ’s coming has changed the world and should change our lives.
What are those titles?
O Sapitentia, O Wisdom! Christ is the Wisdom of God through whom our world and our lives are ordered. We are reminded that true wisdom is found in conforming ourselves to Christ in all things.
O Adonai, O Lord! Christ is Lord, taking on the title the Jewish people reserved for the God who came to Moses in the burning bush, who led them out of slavery in Egypt, who gave them the law and made them His chosen people. We are reminded that we are all God’s chosen people.
O Radix Jesse, O Root of Jesse! Christ is the fulfillment of the promise made to the house of David, who was son of Jesse. While King David’s line came to an end, broken and splintered, we are reminded that Christ comes to restore that line which will deliver us.
O Clavis David, O Key of David! Christ is the key that opens and closes the gates of heaven. We are reminded that to Christ is given all power in heaven and on earth. He is the judge as well as the Savior through whom we are redeemed.
O Oriens, O Rising Sun! Christ is the Sun rising in the East which brings light to the darkness. For almost the entirety of Church history, at every Mass the priest and people faced East together, remembering the promise that Christ will come again and ultimately scatter the darkness.
O Rex Gentium, O King of the Nations! In a divided world, where politicians and princes rule with the delusions that they have some authority, where leaders like so many in our own nation and state believe they have the power over life and death, particularly in the womb, we are reminded Christ is the true King of all nations.
O Emmanuel! Translated as “God with us,” we are reminded that the greatest gift of Christ’s coming is the fact that he came to be with us even unto the end of age. He is present in so many ways, but most especially in the Eucharist – at Mass and in the tabernacle waiting each day for us to spend time with Him. Perhaps above all we reflect in this time on how Christ came to walk with us, to carry us, die with us, and ultimately raise us up to glory with Him.
Yours in Christ,