This third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday. It gets this name from the first word of the Introit at Mass, Gaudete in Domine Semper – Rejoice in the Lord always.
The third Advent candle is pink instead of purple, to mark the joy of the day and is areminder that Advent is passing, and that the birth of Christ is near.
The vestments are pink or rose.
The focus today is also more on the Second coming than on the first – more about Maranatha than Incarnation – and so the theme for the day should be joy, gladness, and heightened expectation.
Advent was originally a forty-day fast in preparation for Christmas, beginning on the day after St Martin’s day (12 November).
Advent goes back as far as the 5th century, but probably not further because there’s no evidence of Christmas being kept on 25 December before the end of the fourth century.
The Advent fast was shortened to four weeks in the 9th century, and by the twelfth century the fast had been replaced by simple abstinence. By the tenth century four was the usual number, though some churches of France observed five as late as the thirteenth century.
Despite all the messing about with the length and the practices in Advent, it has always had the characteristics of a penitential season – like Lent, a season for waiting on God, for purification, or in contemporary terms, a time for self-assessment and bringing your life into order under the guidance of God and your spiritual guides.
Richard Rohr has this to say :
"If we try to make the church into the Kingdom of God, we create a false idol that will disappoint us. If we try to make the world itself into the kingdom- we will always be resentful when it does not come through.
If we make a later heaven into the kingdom we miss most of its transformative message for now.
We are not waiting for the coming of an ideal church or any perfect world here and now or even for the next world.
The kingdom is more than all of these. It is always here and not here. It is always now and not yet. No institution can encompass it. That is rather clear in the texts where Jesus describes the kingdom.
All false religion proceeds in a certain sense ffrom one illusion.
When people say "Thy kingdom come" out of one side of their mouth, they need also to say, " My kingdom go !" out of the other side.
The kingdom of God supersedes and far surpasses all kingdoms of self and society or personal reward."
Adapted from Preparing For Christmas Richard Rohr.