Gaudete in Domino semper; iterum dico, gaudete. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
When I was a child, the priests and nuns in our parish taught us that Advent was a time of waiting, waiting in expectation for the coming of the baby Jesus. We were told that since the time of Adam and Eve, no one had been able to enter into heaven because of their original sin. And the coming of Jesus marked the start of the liberation from this bondage.
This was quite a message for young people to take in, especially since, if I remember correctly, there was no sense of wonder. And even though the third Sunday of Advent was called Gaudete Sunday, there was no message of rejoicing.
As I grew older, and especially as I started singing in choirs, I was able to piece together for myself a different story for Advent.
Adam lay i-bowndyn, bowndyn in a bond, Fowre thowsand winter thowt he not to. long
And al was for an appil, an appil that he tok. As clerkes fyndyn wretyn in here book.
Ne hadde the appil take ben, the appil taken ben, Ne hadde never our lady a ben hevene quen.
Blyssid be the tyme that appil take was! Therefore we mown syngyn Deo gratias!
Adam lay in the bondage of Hell for four thousand years because of his sin.
And it was all because of an apple. We know it’s true because it’s in books.
If that apple had not been taken and eaten, we would not have had The Blessed Mother among us.
So taking the apple was a blessed fault. Therefore we sing Thanks be to God.
Modern English Translation:
Adam Had Fallen
Adam had fallen Fallen deep into guilt; Four thousand winters, He regarded as not too long.
And all was for an apple, An apple that he took, That scholars find Written in a book.
Had he never taken the apple, The apple not taken, Never would Our Lady Have been a Heavenly Queen.
Blessed be the time, The apple was taken So that we may sing: Thanks to the Lord
This is the hymn that has made the greatest impact on me: Let us sing and rejoice and give thanks to the Lord for our salvation and for the humble acceptance of the word of God by Mary, his mother.
The readings today all exhort us to rejoice. “I rejoice heartily in the Lord.” “The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.” “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” “Brothers and sisters, rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.”
Advent is a time of reflection, expectation, and preparation. Like Lent, it is a penitential season, solemn in its observance, with a hushed reverence for what is to take place. And as in Lent, there is a Sunday set aside for lifting us out of the solemn observance and into the joy that awaits us. Laetare, Gaudete! The Lord Is Nigh!
In our time, after two thousand years, we know more and more that not only is the Lord near, but He is here among us.
This was John the Baptist’s message, found in today’s Gospel: “There is one among you whom you do not recognize.” Yet even more, today we know, deep within us, that he is here among us…and within us. Not only do we walk daily with the Lord, but each person we meet, each day, has the Lord within.
So when we turn today at Mass and give each other the kiss of peace, let us rejoice, for we are touching the Lord. Let our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord.
Lord, help us to rejoice in your presence. Help us to await your coming with reverence and with joy. And as we continue on our Advent journey, help us to bring the good news to all we meet, with courage, conviction, and happiness. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.