This 3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete/Rejoice Sunday, we light the pink candle to deliberately mark the advent and approaching celebration of the Incarnation. For some this might symbolise how quickly the time is passing while counting the many tasks on the list which are to be done before Christmas. Advent reminds us that this is a time of preparation, of considering how quickly time does pass, and the many ways we could be ready for the coming of Christ. During this season we sing in the familiar hymn ‘Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.’ Shall come to you, shall come to me, shall come for all. I rejoice each time I consider that our Lord chose to ‘come’, to manifest his love and trust in us, to marvel at and with humanity.
This Sunday we have also celebrated the Rite of Acceptance for our catechumens and the Rite of Welcome for our candidates. The RCIA team, liturgy committee and the parish priest prepared a leaflet based on the combined rite (found in the American publication of the Rite) #507-528. The prayers speak of joy and rejoicing, of preparation and the time spent in coming to know Christ more fully. They speak of how God has ‘sought and summoned’ them in many ways and acknowledges how in response the catechumens and candidates are seeking to know more about and are turning toward God. The assembly were asked if they were ready to help the catechumens and candidates ‘follow Christ’ and we answered ‘We are.’ Now that is really something worth adding to the task list.
Like the pink candle of Advent, this liturgy marks a stage in time within the journey that both catechumens and candidates are on in the company of our communities. In the Gospel this weekend we hear of others who were ‘filled with expectation and were questioning in their hearts and who wanted to prepare themselves for the Messiah.’ Lk 3:10-18 They ask John the Baptist ‘What then should they do?’ John speaks to them of charity, of acting justly and with integrity and to live faithfully as they prepare for baptism. Echoed in the Rites of Acceptance and Welcome the catechumens, candidates and assembly reflected on the how we are to listen to the Word, to come to know God, to love our neighbours, to gather for prayer and to participate in the service of others.
I thought this was a very appropriate time to celebrate this combined Rite which clearly resonated the Advent message of preparation, prayer and expectation. It is a time to rejoice for all who are chosen to follow Christ. ‘Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.’