Gaudete Sunday 2014

Every year for the last ten years I have blogged about Gaudete Sunday. Every year, for as long as I can remember, I have been to Mass on this Sunday and shared in the Sacrament of the altar. Today, however, will be different. I shall drive Quietnun to Mass (we live some miles away from the nearest Catholic church, common enough in England, but rarer elsewhere) and while she participates in the Mass inside, I shall be sitting outside, reading the lessons and prayers*. It is, if I’m honest, slightly miserable. Which brings me to my point.

This morning many a priest will be exhorting his congregation to rejoice. The Mass readings are full of exultant joy; and the choir, if there is one, will be raising the roof with glad song. Even the church’s appearance will change today, with a swirl of rose vestments and incense breaking in on our Advent plainness. So what do we do if our own feelings are out of step with the message, if we are, so to say, feeling like outsiders?

We cannot and should not pretend to a joy we do not have, but instead of shrugging off the whole idea and going our misanthropic way alone, perhaps we should reconsider what we mean by rejoicing and why we are exhorted to be joyful. The joy of a Christian has nothing to do with feelings; it has very little to do with circumstances, either, but has everything to do with hope — our hope in Christ and our hope for all eternity. The broken heart is still broken, but now it is bound up; the poor are still poor, but now we hear the Good News; whatever our past failures, now we are wrapped in the cloak of integrity. (cf Isaiah 61. 1-2, 10-11) Like John the Baptist, we look beyond ourselves to the person of Christ; and like John, we rejoice, we find our joy in Him. We may be going through a desert period in our lives; we may be very conscious of our own fragility and unworthiness; but it doesn’t matter. Christ is all in all. As I sit in the car this morning, I shall try to remember that.

* The chemotherapy I’m having means I’m vulnerable to infection.

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19 thoughts on “Gaudete Sunday 2014”

  1. I will be thinking of you at our 9.45 mass this morning. I do hope your sister can bring you out Holy Communion.Prayers and rose coloured thoughts.x

  2. I couldn’t agree more I have little or know reason to feel joy for fifteen years. Indeed having my emotional centre crippled by disease it is hard to feel anything except darkness,misery and anxiety.
    I know these are false. But I h ave to live through each attack come what may.

    Nevertheless I know the joy of Christianity..the joy of prayer the joy of the presence of Christ. This is not dependent on my mental emotional state.

    This coming Friday I will have a house Mass to celebrate my first year as a Catholic after 61 as a Protestant.

    How can I not know true joy?

  3. Yes, yes – the Joy of Advent and the Happiness of Christmas stand independent of our feelings, but I do sympathise with your enforced isolation.

  4. So much has fallen into place for me after reading this blog. You have a gift for illuminating the knottiest questions. Thank you.

  5. Paul’s stricture this morning for rejoicing hits a point where I’ve been feeling quietly content and happy for quite a few months -giving thanks for the Gifts that God has brought into my life in so many ways. The privilege of serving others in Lay Ministry, the training for which is stretching me in so many directions theologically and spiritually is another gift.

    So the Readings from Isiah this morning reflected so much for me of the promises that God has made and kept, despite our lack of faith or thanks for generations.

    We didn’t have Rose coloured vestments, as a church we’re too poor to afford such things, but we still had the rose coloured advent candle to remind us of which day in Advent we were in.

    Later in a family service, the children of our uniformed organisations (associated with the parish) delivered a Nativity during a service of Advent Carols – times that warm the heart to see and hear dozens of children and young people being actively involved in worship and leading us in it. Sometimes things come together is such ways that we just find ourselves being topped up with Joy. Today is, was, one of those days.

    Prayers for you in your isolation from your worshiping community at this time.

  6. Feeling a little sad, reading this. Given how freely I’ll skip church, you’ve made me consider how much I take it for granted. The idea that after years as a nun, and (speculatively) thousands of masses, you can still feel the loss of this one…

    That said, our church will be packed this evening for the village carol concert. I did lie in bed this morning, thinking “oh yuk, will probably catch someone’s cold, right before Christmas”. I think I hold them off by force of will the rest of the time.

  7. I’m so sorry for your enforced isolation, but what you write chimes very much with my own experience. 17 years ago this week I was diagnosed with my first breast cancer, yet against all expectation and amidst my shock and fear, the joy of Christmas was profoundly real for me that year.

  8. Thank you for writing this. Usually, Christian joy is not expanded upon and thus sounds Pollyannaish, alienating those who have experienced an unusual amount misfortune in life.

  9. Thank you for your comments, and your prayers. I must stress that I use my own situation by way of example, in the hope that it may help/encourage others. I have so much to be grateful for!

  10. Sister, many thanks for this post and the insight it provides. I am going to show it to my friend. She lost her husband last Christmas and I can see how your words will resonate with her. We are very lucky to have Our Lord to lean on and the hands and hearts of our friends who he uses /gives us for support. May God bless you and keep you and Quietnun in his tender care.

  11. You hit the nail on the head that our hope is in Christ. When I was going through tough times, every day I began my prayer with “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) This Scripture passage was a great comfort, gave me encouragement, and a gentle reminder of hope. God bless you, Catherine. May His ever-presence bring you healing of mind and body.

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