Today is Gaudete Sunday, the midpoint of Advent. The rose candle is lit as we pray:
O Lord , we beg thee , incline your ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of your visitation. Who lives and reigns forever. Amen.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed,
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy.
On Wednesday of this week we will celebrate the feast of St. Ambrose, Bishop (Milan 374-397) and Doctor of the Church. He is pictured with St. Augustine and Augustine’s mother, St. Monica, in the third pane of the second history window on the west side of the nave. Born into an ancient Roman family about the year 340 and educated in Rome, he became a successful lawyer and was appointed governor of Milan where he was esteemed and admired for his eloquence and virtue of justice. The Church was divided over doctrine during this time and when the bishop died there was great fear of riots and power struggles within the Church. It was Ambrose who pleaded with the people to elect a bishop peacefully. To his surprise he was elected despite the fact that he was not even baptized. Initially he resisted the office but was persuaded to accept it. Eight days after his baptism he was consecrated bishop on December 7, 374 and served for twenty-three years. His first act was to distribute his wealth to the poor. Since he lacked the essential theological studies he became a devoted student of the Scriptures and Fathers of the Church. He learned so that he could teach. It was his preaching and instruction that attracted Augustine and his conversion through the many prayers and tears of his mother, St. Monica. St. Augustine described St. Ambrose: “He was one of those who speak the truth, and speak it well, judiciously, pointedly, and with beauty and power of expression.” Most of his writings are homilies and written commentaries of his spoken words scribed by listeners. He was not a philosopher, but an administrator and bishop who tried to persuade his followers to act quickly on principles that affected nearly every phase of their religious or moral life. He died on Good Friday, April 4, 397.
Today is the beginning of the Advent Season in preparation for the Birth of Christ, “the Light that came into the world,” to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the Light of love and truth. Traditionally Catholics celebrate this period of spiritual preparation with the Advent wreath. The origins of the wreath are uncertain, but the practice was well established by the early 1600s. Simple in design, the tradition is full of symbolism. The circular wreath, with no beginning nor end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul and the everlasting life found in Christ. The evergreens of various sources represent continuous life. Even the pine cones, berries and seed pods which might be used to decorate the wreath are symbols of life and resurrection. Each of the four candles represents a week of Advent. The three purple ones are symbolic of prayer, penance, and works of charity. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday which marks the half way point of preparation and is a time for rejoicing. The progressive lighting of the candles represents the anticipation and hope that surrounded Christ’s birth and his second coming at the Last Judgment. Traditionally the candles are lit at the daily family meal accompanied by special prayers.
Come to me, Lord, with your help
that I may see the joy of your chosen ones
and may rejoice in the gladness of your nation
and share the glory of your people. Ps 106