This week there is a subtle change in the Mass. You will notice the priest wears rose colored vestments. The rose colored candle is lighted on the Advent Wreath. This Sunday is called “Gaudete” Sunday because it means “rejoice.” Gaudete sets the tone of a joyful expectation of the Lord’s imminent Second Coming. The ancient church since as far back as the 5th century called this “Saint Martin’s Lent.” In those times Advent began on November 12—the day after Saint Martin’s feast day. Over time Advent got whittled down to 4 weeks by the 10th century. Only on this 3rd Sunday of Advent the church allowed the organ to be played and flowers to be placed upon the altar; a brief respite in the rigors and penances of Advent. This highlighted the proximity of the Lord. “He is near. Rejoice! He is nearer to you than He was yesterday.”
And so it is on this Gaudete Sunday that the Church throughout the world has brought back the ancient tradition of “Bambinelli Sunday.” The faithful bring their infant Christ-child from their manger at home to be blessed at Mass as the figure is held aloft by the family. Then Jesus is returned to the center of the manger at home. In churches throughout the world this ancient practice is once again being revived.
Each year on this 3rd Sunday of Advent children will gather with their families in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome. The children bring the Christ-child figure. During the noontime Angelus prayer the pope blesses the children and the figure of the baby Jesus with these words:
God our Father, you loved us so much you sent your only Son,
Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, to save us and lead us back to You.
We pray that, with Your blessing, these images of Jesus might be a sign of
Your presence and love in our homes.
Good Father, give Your blessing to all who gather with us this Christmas.
Open our hearts, that we might receive Jesus in joy, always do what He asks of us,
And see Him in those who need our love. Amen.
– Fr. Gerard Gordon