Gaudete Sunday or Insecurity Sunday?

Happy Gaudete Sunday!

Today the rose (pink) candle on the Advent wreath is lit; today hopefully you will see the priest wearing rose (pink) vestments in church.

Our rose chasuble here where I live is unfortunately about the same color as Pepto-Bismol. Nevertheless, there is no real consensus about what exact shade “rose” should be, and there is a lot of variation out there.

In the United States we tend to be very insecure about certain colors. Many priests are insecure about wearing rose or pink on two Sundays a year and in fact refuse to do so (an option they have, since purple can also be used on those days). Not a few parishioners, especially men, give the priest, vested in rose, the “hairy eyeball” (without realizing it, I think) as they leave the church after Mass today. And there are always one or two people who apparently cannot resist saying to the priest, “Oh Father, you look pretty in pink today!”

This shows how much traditional symbols have been hijacked by our modern culture!

Pink (or rose), in the Church, which is not a slave to passing fashions and fads, has always meant joy. It stood for joy 500 years ago, and 500 years from now will still stand for joy. Yet in our contemporary culture it has come to be understood in a far different way. (Even as the word “gay”, which used to mean “joyful”, now is used quite differently!)

Consider also the rainbow. It is a biblical symbol of hope, a sign of God’s promise. Recently, however, I posted about how it is being used another way here in Rome this year!

Our insecurity about these things can be good, insofar as it prompts us to think seriously about why certain symbols and colors are used in the Church and to focus on that more profound and more timeless approach to reality. But I’m afraid that too many people still get caught up in the superficial, worldly approach to these things.

When we enter the church on Sunday we are leaving the world behind for that hour. Sure, we bring the world with us in our hearts, so to speak – we bring our anxieties, our intentions, our joys, and the like with us to Mass. But we do so entering into a sacred space where heaven and earth unite and Christ himself becomes present in our midst. (This is one of the reasons why our churches should not look like community centers.) Maybe we need to be reminded about this!

If your priest wears rose today, rejoice and be glad! Thank him for wearing rose and for upholding one of the Church’s timeless traditions. And regardless of what pink might stand for outside the walls of the church, you remain inside the Church in your heart and focus on that meaning, meditating on today’s gospel and seeking to live out the joy that the Lord wishes for us all to have and to share.

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