Gaudete in the original version of the Piae Cantiones 1582
“Rejoice in the Lord always!” That’s the watchword for this ThirdSunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday. The festive name comes directly from a passage of Phillipians 4:4.
Gaudete in Domino semper iterum dico gaudete. Rejoice in the Lord. Always I say to you rejoice!
“Gaudete” is actually the imperative form of the verb gaudere – to rejoice. So the text commands us to rejoice. Why does anyone need to be commanded to rejoice?
Because we are in the middle of a penitential season: Advent. By the time this third Sunday in Advent rolls around, faithful Christians in historical times would be eager to hear that command. They had reached the mid-point of a fasting season. Surrounded by sugar cookies and peppermint, we moderns may forget that Advent was, and remains, a penitential season. A season for prayer and fasting. Like Lent? Yes, like Lent.
In fact, if you are an Eastern Christian (Russian, Greek, Ethiopian, Antiochian Orthodox, etc.), then Advent is observed by 40 days of prayer and fasting, rather than the 22 to 28 days observed in the West. But even in the strictest Fasting Seasons, Sundays are the Lord’s Day, and therefore always a day of celebration. Dietary rules were relaxed, and all were called to rejoice.
So today it’s time to light the third candle – the rose-colored one on your Advent Wreath. Not a main liturgical color, rose is called a “subsidiary” color and it always signifies rejoicing.
And take note: the mother of the family traditionally does the lighting of the candles on Gaudete Sunday.
Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end. Amen.
One more thing. From a musical standpoint, the word gaudete has a swingy rhythm to it (gaw-de-tay). Not surprisingly, songs that set this text tend to be energetic. One of my favorite settings is a modern arrangement (1986) of an old chant made by Brian Kay for the wonderful English vocal ensemble, The King’s Singers. We sing this version for our own Lessons and Carols service here in Bowie, Texas and we never get tired of practicing it. That arrangement is sung here rather impressively by a high-school choir.
You’ll find colorful versions of the carol Gaudete on YouTube: everything from children’s choirs to boisterous renditions accompanied by tambourines, finger cymbals, and drums. You might like this one:
Maybe your children can come up with their own musical settings of that wonderful Philippians text. Just crank up the spirit and Gaudete in Domino!