Dear Sacred Heart of Jesus Family,
Today we rejoice! Gaudere is a latin word which means to rejoice and be glad. I certainly hope you are rejoicing and glad. However it is likely that we can be stressed right now! If you are stressed and preoccupied, the Good Lord gives us a nine day workshop on rejoicing, in order to find the heart of joy that Advent is revealing to us. A novena is a time of prayer for nine segments, often nine days. It began with the first “nine days of prayer” at the Ascension. When the Lord Jesus returned to heaven, after His Resurrection, the Apostles and disciples were saddened to see Him leave them. Two angels reminded them to return to Jerusalem to pray and await the Holy Spirit. They prayed for nine days and received the grace of Pentecost. These nine days leading to Christmas are a special, unique novena from the earliest centuries of Christianity. May these nine days lead us into the heart of joy. Today on Gaudete Sunday, believers rejoice to enter the third week of Advent. The rose candle and vestments remind us of the dawn. Today marks the beginning of this classic Christmas Novena which runs from the 17th until Christmas. All signs point to this path to joy. How can we receive the blessings of this novena?
Every day of the year, the Church “prays without ceasing.” The Book of Psalms are the heart of what is often called the Liturgy of the Hours. This Liturgy has two principle hours — Lauds and Vespers. Lauds, or morning prayer, praises God as the sun rises. Vespers, or evening prayer, continues this prayer as the day is drawing to a close. At both Lauds and Vespers, there are antiphons, or prayer aspirations which introduce the psalms and two special texts, the Benedictus (of Lauds) and the Magnificat of Our Lady (during Vespers). At evening prayer this evening through the 23rd, the antiphon for the Magnificat will begin with the letter “O”. When you and I hear big news, we often say Oh wow, oh no, or oh my goodness. Well the Church does also! Each evening between the 17th and the 23rd, she prays “O..” with a title of the Lord. These “O Antiphons” are the foundation of the Christmas Carol, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” based on these classic texts. In English and Latin, the antiphons are: 17th “O Wisdom” (O Sapientia), 18th “O Lord of Israel” (O Adonai), 19th “O Root of Jesse” (O Radix Jesse), 20th “O Key of David” (O Clavis David), 21st “O Radiant Dawn” (O Oriens), 22nd “O King of All Nations” (O Rex Gentium), and on the 23rd “O Emmanuel” (same in Latin). On the 24th there is no more “O” text because it is the vigil watch of His birth. Humorously, when the monks arranged the first letters of the Latin texts, their selections of the first letters were chosen to spell (in Latin): E.R.O. C.R.A.S., which means “tomorrow I will arrive.” The following website has great resources, information and family activities for you, on the “O Antiphons:” https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=958
The Lord arrives every day, but we are bound in a special way by the Church to worship Him on the Lord’s Day (Sunday or its Saturday anticipated Vigil) and Holy Days of Obligation. This year, we have a special opportunity to party for two days in a row! We celebrate the fourth Sunday of Advent next weekend, and the vigil of Christmas beginning on Sunday evening. That means our festive celebration of Mass overlaps two days in a row, and we are bound by the Church to attend both days, as a thanksgiving to Jesus for His victory and His coming into our lives. That means there are two obligations to worship, one for the Lord’s Day, and one for His Birthday. There are two parties. We can meet that obligation by attending two Masses, one for the Sunday, and one for Christmas. While it is tempting, we can’t do a “two-fer.” One Sunday evening Mass won’t fulfill both obligations. We can begin planning now to see how the various Masses from Saturday evening the 23rd through Monday the 25th can meet your needs to worship and give thanks. Please see the bulletin point on how we can meet the Lord these two days and receive His countless blessings. Let us pray the Christmas novena to interrupt our stress with joyful breakthroughs. We cry out “O” to the Lord, as each day He meets our needs in new ways with His Love. A blessed Christmas Novena to you and yours. “O come, O come, Emmanuel!”
In Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart,
Fr. Bjorn Lundberg