September 20, 2020

Joy in the Journey


Today’s post is by Chaplain Mike Mercer.

There is a joy in the journey,
there’s a light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life,
and freedom for those who obey.

All those who seek it shall find it,
a pardon for all who believe.
Hope for the hopeless and sight for the blind
To all who’ve been born of the Spirit
and who share incarnation with him;
who belong to eternity, stranded in time,
and weary of struggling with sin.
Forget not the hope that’s before you,
and never stop counting the cost.
Remember the hopelessness when you were lost?

– Michael Card

Question: Why is the third candle on the Advent Wreath pink or rose-colored instead of deep blue or purple like the other candles?

We are now three Sundays into the Advent season, the time when Christians prepare for Christ’s coming. Advent is a penitential season on the church calendar. We mark and practice it through lament, self-denial, and repentance. We honestly face the darkness within and around us, and cry out for God’s Light to shine on us. This journey takes a toll. The darkness is deep, and seems to stretch on endlessly before us.

Over the years, the Church recognized the tiresome nature of long penitential seasons. Therefore, at the midpoint in Lent (the forty-day season of fasting leading up to Easter), a “Sunday of Refreshment” was inserted into the liturgical calendar. This became known as “Laetare” Sunday, from the Latin phrase spoken at the beginning of the Mass which means “O be joyful.” Similarly, the third Sunday in Advent was designated as a day of rejoicing and was named “Gaudete (Rejoicing) Sunday”.

Today is Gaudete Sunday. In the midst of Advent’s long journey, our worship on this day calls us to lift up our eyes, focus anew on our destination, and thus find renewed strength and refreshment from realizing that “our redemption draws near.” To mark this day, the liturgical colors are changed from deep purple or blue to rose-pink. That is why the third candle is different than the others on the Advent Wreath.

Last night, we were watching our one-year-old grandson for our daughter. What a joy! Snug in his jammies, he stood in the portable crib and played games with me. Down he bent to push his face against the mesh sides, distorting his features and making funny sounds, then up he bounced, peeking over the top rail saying, “Ha! Ha!” He was having a great time entertaining grandpa and acting silly. A few moments of pure joy on a dark, cold winter’s night.

In the classic work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan pictures his travelers arriving at the “Delectable Mountains,” where shepherds tend their sheep. These mountains have gardens, orchards, vineyards, and fountains of water from which the pilgrims drink and wash themselves. While not the final destination, the Delectable Mountains are described as Immanuel’s Land, standing within sight of his City, a place of relief for pilgrims who are weary and faint on the way.

Joy must not be reserved for the end of the journey. We must also find vistas “within sight of the City,” where we can get some respite from our toilsome trek, where we can anticipate the celebration to come and rest for the journey’s final leg.

I have learned something of my own propensity for wanting to give up when the journey gets long and hard. My energy wanes. I get discouraged and angry, feeling defeated and hopeless. I withdraw into a cocoon of self-pity. At times I self-medicate with food, naps, alcohol, or time-wasting mindless diversions. The simplest task sometimes appears as if it will require a gargantuan feat of strength. The darkness can get deep, the road long, prospects for arriving at the destination dim.

At such times I need a glimpse of the City. An inn at the side the road. A warm welcome, a hot meal, a pleasant conversation, a friend’s embrace. A few moments of “gaudete.” A song to lift the heart. An encouraging word. A scenic overlook that puts this small patch of difficult trail in perspective.

Today’s lectionary text from Philippians says,

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Here is a word to keep us going to the end. “The Lord is near.” So, take a few moments today to rejoice. Be gentle with yourself and others. Cast your worries on the Lord. Say a word of thanks when you pray. Receive his gift of peace.

Breathe. Rest up. Enjoy a moment of respite and allow yourself a little rejoicing.



  1. “This became known as “Laetare” Sunday, from the Latin phrase spoken at the beginning of the Mass which means “O be joyful.” Similarly, the third Sunday in Advent was designated as a day of rejoicing and was named “Gaudete (Rejoicing) Sunday”.

    Tiny technicality here. The words “Be joyful” or “Rejoice” are not spoken at the beginning of the Mass per se, but at the beginning of the opening Antiphon, which, for Advent, you correctly quote, from Phillipians: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say rejoice.”

    The antiphons change daily and take the place of an opening hymn. Ideally, the opening hymn should be chosen to key off the antiphon. At our daily morning Masses, the opening antiphon is read or chanted in place of the Processional.

    The words of the beginning of Mass are “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” and those NEVER change.

    It’s always a treat to see the rose vestments come out of hiding for the second time in the year (even when they’re more pink than rose) and to burn candles on the dinner table at home in rose-colored glasses, along with the Advent wreath.

    Shall come to thee
    O Israel. . . .

    The Third Sunday of Advent is a day for rejoicing (from the Latin ‘gaudete’ for ‘joy’).
    On this day, some Christians pray this prayer in the Name of the Lord:

    ” . . . the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s Coming
    and looks forward with longing
    to His return at the end of time.
    Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness
    that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope
    which His Presence will bestow,
    for He is Lord for ever and ever”

  3. This is truly a beautiful write up! What a blessing, what a blessing, the power expressed in this time of Advent is something I did not know of until this year…I have just begun to truly practice Advent and there is something powerful in how His Truths are discussed and yet they come into you and become apart of you….May we all become more Christlike…


  4. In many Baptist churches, the weeks of Advent are poorly taught or else missing altogether. I was in a church that lit the candles, but there was little explanation as to what they meant. Only last year did I begin teaching Advent and sharing it with others. If anyone suggests lighting candles is a little too “Catholic,” I suggest researching where Christmas comes from in the first place.

    • This is maybe an example of a need for sharing, in gentle respect, with brothers and sisters who just haven’t been brought up with the old traditions, but who might show an interest in them.
      I think sharing about Advent can be done respectfully with people of the Baptist faith, by showing that the season is also connected to the great yearning they already have for the return of Christ at the end of time. In that way, it will be meaningful, as the pre-Christmas ‘waiting’ is joined together with the patient and joyful waiting for the Coming of the Lord when He returns to us.
      It’s no one’s ‘fault’ that the Baptist people do not have these traditions, but they certainly have every right to enter into the celebrations of the Christian church year in any way that is meaningful and fulfilling for them. It can only bring them closer to Our Lord and to one another.
      We should help them if we can. And they will bless us too, with gifts to us of their own.

      • If they light birthday candles on a cake, surely they can light a candle in church without going straight over to Rome.

        • Why would they light a candle if had no real meaning in their worship?
          I think they should be true to who they are, and enter into liturgical worship models only when they are meanngful for them.
          I would like to see them ‘made aware’ of some of the possibilities, but I would like to see it done respectfully. Sarcasm is a tool of religious fundamentalism. Sarcasm has no place in communications between Christian brothers and sisters.

  5. Gaudete is one of my favourite Christmas songs. For those of you not familiar with the song, here is a video link.

    The Latin words are below along with their English translations.

    Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
    Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!

    Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
    Of the Virgin Mary, rejoice!

    Tempus adest gratiæ
    Hoc quod optabamus,
    Carmina lætitiæ
    Devote reddamus.

    The time of grace has come
    That we have desired;
    Let us devoutly return
    Joyful verses.

    Deus homo factus est
    Natura mirante,
    Mundus renovatus est
    A Christo regnante.

    God has become man,
    And nature marvels;
    The world has been renewed
    By Christ who is King.

    Ezechielis porta
    Clausa pertransitur,
    Unde lux est orta
    Salus invenitur.

    The closed gate of Ezechiel
    Has been passed through;
    Whence the light is born,
    Salvation is found.

    Ergo nostra contio
    Psallat lam in lustro;
    Benedicat Domino:
    Salus Regi nostro.

    Therefore let our gathering
    Now sing in brightness
    Let it give praise to the Lord:
    Greeting to our King.

    • I had never heard that song before, Michael Bell. Very pretty being sung by those young boys. Quite the setting they are singing it in, too.

  6. Good to know that I can rejoice.

    I had a funeral for a friend’s father this weekend. So this blog is close to to home.

  7. For the truly and utterly liturgical geeks among you, what is the difference between the colors of pink and rose?

    If you were a painter, then pink is a mixture of red and white colors. Rose is a mixture of violet and white colors. Thus, the liturgical meaning of the color rose (which is NOT pink) is the lightening of the fast (violet) with a bit of the joy of the Resurrection and the hope to come (white).

    • Oh, THAT’s wonderful Christian geekery! I can’t wait to try that out on….uh,……someone’s GOT to think this is interesting in my life!

      Thank you!

    • I can appreciate the ‘color-coding’ coming from my Catholic faith. In times ancient up until the middle ages, few people could read. Visual presentations in Churches were important to them. The connection with these Christians is still there: in the Body of Christ. And the keeping of the old ways ties us to them in memory of their way of worshipping. Not a bad thing at all. Like going the Church and ‘being present’ with Christians of the past as we celebrate an ancient liturgy in communion with them.

  8. We have to be able to praise God in all things. Even in chronic trial we can enter into the joy of the Lord. Lovely post

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Joy must not be reserved for the end of the journey. We must also find vistas “within sight of the City,” where we can get some respite from our toilsome trek, where we can anticipate the celebration to come and rest for the journey’s final leg.

    On another blog, someone posted “Christians have got to speak of hope other than The Second Coming.” Especially when the Zeitgeist of the period is Hopeless Despair, from Global Warming to Mayan Calendars — We’re All Gonna Die, It’s Already Too Late, It’s All Over But The Screaming. At which point, talking about The Second Coming is just a Christian version of 2012, just another End of the World cult smacking its lips in glee, and at best offering a fire escape.

    And when everything is Hopeless Despair — only waiting for The End — people either kill themselves, go crazy, or grab for anyone who claims he has a way out. We’ve seen a textbook example of this in the past few decades culminating in last year’s election, as Christians were on the “It’s All Gonna Burn — Don’t Be Left Behind!!” bandwagon until all some fast-tracked Chicago Machine pol had to do was stand in front of a teleprompter and say “HOPE! CHANGE! HOPECHANGE!”