Take It With You 12.12.2021

The third Sunday of Advent was called Gaudete Sunday, with Gaudete meaning joy. As we anticipate the arrival of our Lord, we have first contemplated the Hope, and then the Peace, brought about by it. Now we consider the Joy. But first we must know what joy is. In common talk we often equate joy with happiness or pleasure. A gift can make you happy, but a family gathering can bring you joy. Happiness comes and goes throughout the day, depending on simple changes in our situation. Joy is a drastic state of our life, and a drastic change must occur for it to be lost.

Where, then, does joy come from in a world like this, a world with so much pain and suffering and disappointment? Maybe it was easy, you may say, for those ancient Christians to have joy. They didn’t have to deal with Coronavirus, stock market crashes, or fraught political elections. It’s at this point that the wisdom of the ancients can give us insight into today. Truth does not change over time, because God does not change. And neither, I believe, does the condition of the world change very much. Every age is still fallen, and suffers the consequences of that first disobedience. With that said, we can learn a lot from the words of Cyprian of Carthage. He lived in the Roman Empire in the third century at a time when inflation was making the masses destitute, political instability led to the fracturing of an empire, and a plague killed thousands every day. Sound familiar? And yet, with all of this going on, what was Cyprian’s advice? Rejoice. “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy,” he quotes from John’s gospel, because “to see Christ is to rejoice.” It is futile to seek joy in a world of pain and suffering, and to not seek it in the coming of God instead.

This is why we celebrate Gaudete Sunday: because we know that the only path to joy is coming soon. The great Advent hymn, O Come O Come Emmanuel, is keenly aware of the joy that comes from seeing God, and the despair that comes without Him, a despair found in “Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appears.”

“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall Come to Thee O Israel.”

~ Matt Miller