I do occasionally write about religion here. I’ll keep it light, I promise.
Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the day that Catholics and most other Christians commemorate Jesus’ triumphant arrival in Jerusalem before his Crucifixion. (Orthodox Christians typically celebrate it a week or two later, since they use the Julian calendar to set the date; this year they celebrate on the same day.) It was also the sixth Sunday of Lent, the penitential season preceding Easter Sunday. (I also think of it as a second birthday, since I was born on Palm Sunday 1956.) The other penitential season during the Church year is Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas. (The First Sunday of Advent is also the beginning of the liturgical year.)
During Lent and Advent, priests wear a violet-colored chasuble and stole to say Mass, but on the fourth Sunday of Lent, called Laetare Sunday, and the third Sunday of Advent, called Gaudete Sunday, he has the option of wearing rose-colored vestments.
The Latin word laetare is the singular imperative form of the verb laetari, “to rejoice.” The opening prayer of the Mass (or introit) for the day is Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae: “Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.” The day is a respite from the rigors of a penitential season, a reminder to rejoice, that Easter is on its way.
Similarly, Gaudete Sunday takes its name from the opening prayer of the Mass for that day (Gaudete is another Latin word meaning “rejoice.”). Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob.: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.” The Advent wreath has three violet candles and one rose-colored candle, which is lit along with two violet candles on the Third Sunday of Advent. The message remains the same: rejoice, for Christmas is near.
A couple of years ago, I bought a pink shirt, specifically to wear to Mass on these two Sundays. For some reason, though, no one realizes the connection until Mary points it out. Actually, that’s not totally true: one of the priests at our parish remarked on it last Laetare Sunday. Made my day.