I'm really bad at waiting. I can't just wait patiently, I have to be doing something. When I'm in line at a store or waiting to get into an event, I tend to fidget and almost always end up annoying my husband and everyone else around me. I don't mean to, I'm just really bad at waiting.
Advent is a season that makes us wait, even when the world around us is already in full blown Christmas mode. By the time the third Sunday of Advent comes, I feel a bit like the dog with the treat on its nose, I know that something wonderful is going to come my way, I just can't have it until the Church says "Christmas!"
The Church knows that waiting is hard and it doesn't want to leave us anxious. That is where the third Sunday of Advent can help. The third Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday, from the first Latin word of the Entrance Antiphon ("Rejoice in the Lord always…"). Most often it is identified with the rose candle on the Advent Wreath and possibility of rose vestments (yes, they're rose, not pink, or so says almost every priest I know). It might not be immediately clear how rose candles and vestments help us wait more faithfully, but they do (just wait, I'll explain).
The Church knows we've been waiting, as faithfully and as patiently as we can. We've been preparing for the coming of the Savior, and that isn't always easy. Sometimes we spend so much time preparing, that we forget exactly what it is we are preparing for. Sometimes we spend so much energy preparing that we are all out energy come the main event. Gaudete Sunday is a chance to get excited again, to take a bit of a step back from our preparations and remember just what, just who it is we are preparing for. The pink candle and vestments are physical signs that things are a bit different today that the focus, on this Sunday, is on the rejoicing, on the knowing who it is we are waiting for.
The collect for the Third Sunday of Advent reminds God that even if we are bad at waiting, we're still trying, we're still faithfully trying to wait: "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…."
Waiting is hard. It can make us anxious. It can seem pointless. And yet, the Church asks us to wait. On the third Sunday of Advent we see a glimmer of why that waiting is so important. We rejoice because we know that we are waiting for the coming of Christ. We rejoice because we know the best is coming. We rejoice because we have been waiting, and we will wait for another week, but waiting is hard and sometimes, even in the Church, we need a reminder of who it is we are waiting for.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near."
Rebecca Spellacy is the Associate Director of Liturgy for the Office of Formation for Discipleship in the Archdiocese of Toronto.