“Gaudete … Rejoice!” is the first word to greet us at Holy Mass this Sunday. We relax our penitential preparation before swiftly approaching Christmas. Instead of Advent purple, on Gaudete Sunday the priest may vest in rose or, technically, rosacea, which is closer to madder or salmon than bubblegum or baby rattle.
The first great oration of Holy Mass for Sunday, the Collect, was lifted in large part from a collection of prayers that stretch back to the 5th century:
Deus, qui conspicis populum tuum nativitatis dominicae festivitatem fideliter exspectare, praesta, quaesumus, ut valeamus ad tantae salutis gaudia pervenire, et ea votis sollemnibus alacri laetitia celebrare.
The infinitives, expectare (“to look out for a thing, await, to hope for; to fear, dread”), pervenire (“to come to, arrive at; attain”), and celebrare (“to go to a place or person in great numbers or often, to frequent; to honour a person or thing”) give this oration a grand sound. They also sum up what we are doing throughout Advent. Conspicio, the etymological kissing cousin of exspecto, means “to look at attentively, to get sight of ”. This is skilful wordplay. God “watches” over us and we “watch” for Him.
Current ICEL (2011) translation: “O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.”
In the Collects of the last two Sundays we have been “rushing” and doing good works, being careful not to get tangled up in worldly things. This Sunday we have an image of an almost childlike dash towards a long-desired thing. Our heavenly Father watches over us as we run down the path towards our Saviour even as we make sure our paths are straight. Have earthly fathers not watched this scene on Christmas mornings? Do children dash to their gifts by zigzags or by running out of the house and away from them? They always go straight at them.
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