Sunday, March 30, 2003

Laetare Sunday -- The Fourth in Lent

From Parsch's The Church's Year of Grace, vol.II

"Easter is coming! With childlike joy the Church begins to count the days. Just as on the third Sunday of Advent we felt the thrill and happiness of Christmas, so now we anticipate the joy of Easter. Herein lies the whole significance of Laetare Sunday. It brings to the catechumens a foretaste of the good things they will receive at Easter; e.g., the grace of divine sonship, a new spiritual Mother in holy Church, the Eucharist as the true manna. And we, the faithful, awaken in our breasts a new consciousness of these tremendous blessings."

. . . . . .

"This Sunday has a unique distinction in the Church year – a day of joy in the season of penance and sorrow! The priest may wear a rose-colored chasuble, the organ may play, deacon and subdeacon are clothed in festive vestments. All the Mass texts ring with joy; the entrance song is a joyous shout, “Laetare – rejoice!” The Church has the following reasons for the happiness in her soul.

a) In the oldest period, the Lenten fast at Rome did not begin until Monday of the third week preceding Easter; today then was a kind of Mardi Gras. Later, when the observance was extended to forty days, this Sunday became Mid-Lent – again reason for a pause and relaxation.

b) The ancient Church rejoiced in her catechumens, whose rebirth was close at hand. She was filled with maternal joy at the prospect of a large family. It is this spirit which gives a joyful coloring to all the older liturgy of Lent.

c) Today’s celebration is a preview of Easter, we can not quell our joyous expectation as we anticipate the sacred feast. The Gospel [John 6: 1-15] says, emphatically: “Easter is near!”

d) This Sunday has also a Eucharistic character – an ancient Corpus Christi. Christ is about to establish His family; through blood and sweat He obtains our daily Bread, the fruit of His suffering. The Gospel makes this clear. Christ is the new Moses who in the desert of life gives us heavenly manna.

e) Finally, this Sunday is a nature feast. It is springtime and we are happy over the resurrection of nature. The heavenly Father is about to effect the multiplication of bread upon our fields. In the liturgy, however, springtime in nature is merely a figure of the holy spring that with Easter comes in the land of the baptized. The sign of the Churches ver sacrum is the rose, the golden rose blessed today by the Holy Father. Surely there are many and good reasons for the joy surging through Christendom today."

. . . . . . .

The stational church in Rome today is the “Church of the Holy Cross at Jerusalem”.

"The station exercised a profound influence upon the formulation of the Mass formulary. All the chants are concerned with Jerusalem. The key psalm (121), “I rejoiced because they said to me, ‘We will go up to the house of the Lord!’,” expressed well the jubilant spirit of catechumens and Christians. With the two wives of Abraham as types, the Epistle [Gal.4: 22-31] compares the Church with the synagogue, the heavenly Jerusalem with the Jewish Jerusalem. The station reminds Christians and catechumens that in Holy Church they have a good mother. Over the portal of our parish church, let us imagine these words in golden letters, 'Jerusalem, our Mother!'”