During Advent we spiritually re-live the hopes and expectations of the Old Testament; awaiting the coming Messiah. Many of the ancient prayers of the season start with the invocation ‘Excita Domine!’ literally “Stir up O Lord”; they are an alarm call to awaken us from the sleep of apathy and indifference; a summons to reform and to focus our lives.
Gaudete Sunday introduces the third week of Advent, and it takes its name from the Latin word Gaudete (“Rejoice”). Rose-coloured vestments on that day may be worn instead of purple, that is why Gaudete Sunday is also known as “Rose Sunday”. The readings on the third Sunday emphasize the joyous anticipation of the Lord’s coming.
The third week presents to us the Blessed Virgin Mary as the herald of joy and union with God; her life was completely open to God’s grace. She was a worthy temple to receive the Lord and the means through which he became ‘Emmanuel’ (God with us). Mary accepted God’s will in joyful obedience: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” She is the personification of the purpose and goal of Advent: to be united with Christ and become sharers in his divine life. “Come Lord Jesus, Son of Mary come to our hearts, be born in us anew!
Beginning from 17th December the Church invokes her Lord with greater intensity; the Great ‘O’ Antiphons, used in the Evening Prayer of the Church, consist mainly of passages from the scriptures, and express the urgent need of humanity for their Saviour, Jesus Christ. Make them part of your prayer as we approach the feast of our Lord’s birth.
17th December: O WISDOM
Come and teach us the way of truth
18th December: O ADONAI [LORD] and Leader of Israel
Come and save us with your mighty power.
19th December: O STOCK OF JESSE
Come, deliver us and do not delay.
20th December: O KEY OF DAVID and sceptre of Israel
Come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
21st December: O RISING SUN
Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
22nd December: O KING
Come and save mankind whom you have made of clay.
23rd December: O EMMANUEL
Come and save us, Lord our God.
24th December: Know that today the Lord will come, and in the morning you will see his glory.