My friends; we are at the mid-way point in our Advent journey, actually more than mid-way as Advent, due to this year’s Church calendar, will be shortened—it all depends on where the first Sunday of Advent falls. But this Sunday in the Advent cycle is always special—we know it as “Gaudete” which is Latin for “rejoice.”
So, it is good at this point to look back and see some history. After the Second Vatican Council, with all of our liturgy being updated so that it made more liturgical sense, the traditional color of Advent was changed from purple to blue in order that we would change our thinking of Advent as a time of penitence to a time of quiet waiting. The color blue is in deference to Mary, our mother and sister, a true woman of strength and patient waiting. The tone then was intended to help us prepare, yes, but less in a penitential way and more in a way of quiet, yet joy-filled waiting.
Advent calls each of us to patient waiting as well, to being people of strength, willing to walk in our brother Jesus’ footsteps when it is easy and when it is not so easy, as his earthly mother did.
Sometimes we get set in our ways and are unwilling to change as some of the Catholic churches that still use purple and pink candles on their Advent wreaths, protesting that, “We like it the way that it was, without being open to a new way of thinking. The old way may seem more comfortable, but this isn’t about being “comfortable” but about being “meaningful.” The beauty of the Catholic church’s liturgy has always been in its rituals, its signs and symbols pointing to a greater truth—a richer idea than what is at face value.
Vatican II taught that the season of advent should not be looked at as a time of penance and sadness, indicated by the liturgical color, purple, as we use for Lent, but one of joy and patient waiting indicated by the liturgical color, blue. The white candle used on the Advent wreath is the color for “joy”—one could use the color pink or rose as I have done with my stole and the drapes in our liturgical space—as rose is also a color for joy.
The liturgical colors and Scriptural readings are meant to align and when they do, what the prophets are trying to convey to us have a much better chance of doing just that! All the readings for today are about joy, about seeing our God as one of love, not someone that we should fear.
The prophet Zephaniah, in the first reading proclaims that we should, “Shout for joy, that we “should sing joyfully because God is in our midst.” And not only this, but that, “God rejoices over us with gladness, renews us in love, and sings joyfully about us!” Both the psalm which is from the words of the prophet, Isaiah and Paul’s letter to the Philippians are about joy as well. So, if we were to use the traditional color purple, which indicates a time of penance, it just wouldn’t fit!
Some churches still use the color purple for their Advent waiting and I can only guess it’s because they are still objecting to the changes of Vatican II or they just don’t understand the purpose behind the signs and symbols that are so beautiful within the Catholic church and give us the tone to strive after with each liturgical season.
For those who were at Mass last week or may have read my homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, you know that I spoke about the seeming, “wrongness” of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception because it does not convey who Mary was—a strong woman, willing to speak truth to power as she does in her Magnificat, but is instead a diversion in that understanding. We would do better as a Church to rename the feast, “Mary of the Magnificat” to truly uplift who she was. In her joyous testament of faith, she proclaims the God of her heart who was not only her Friend, but who became her Lover, her Child, one who would bring justice to the land, tear tyrants from their thrones, and lift up the lowly. So, if we were ever looking for a mystery—there it is! That is the reason we are singing the “Canticle of the Turning” in today’s liturgy as it is a modern version, post Vatican II that indeed raises up all these traits which are more the truth about who Mary was. This sung canticle is a marching song for proclaiming the good that God has done and continually does through us.
That is also why a Church hierarchy comprised of only men is all wrong. These men don’t speak for women, nor do they know what to do when confronted with a strong woman. They tend to want to put them on pedestals and when these women persist in asking, “why,” as God wants all of us to do when confronting the Scriptures; and injustices in life, the hierarchy burns them at the stake or excommunicates them! How would our Church be if all the God-given gifts were uplifted? Just as using the wrong liturgical color is a diversion from the truth trying to be conveyed in the liturgy; not seeing the true place of women in our Church and world, called by God to be part of the wonderful mystery of God-with-us, is a diversion too; and it fails to help us see our God as God truly is—inclusive, all about love, wanting the same from us.
The beautiful and joy-filled readings for today conclude with John’s example in the gospel of Luke about how we are to be as Jesus’ followers. John says that, “He is not worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals.” So, we too, must come to know as John did, who we are meant to be and who we are not meant to be. As spiritual beings here, having a human experience; we are not to be about becoming as “well-to-do” as possible, but to see to it that all our sisters and brothers are simply, “well”–that everyone’s needs are being met—that we are treating others as we want to be treated.
So, my friends; let us complete our Advent time clearly focused on Jesus, seeing our God as one who “rejoices in us” not one to fear, but one to love as we have been loved, each one of us. Amen? Amen!