The Psalmist says “O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.”(Ps. 95:1) Have you ever noticed that there is one pink candle among the three purple ones in the Advent wreath? The purple ones symbolize the penitential emphasis of Advent, calling us to turn from our sinful ways. By contrast, the pink candle symbolizes joy. The 3rd Sunday of Advent has traditionally been known as gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for “rejoice”. We are reminded that it is in the midst of the trials and tribulations of this life, where we are most caught up in the sin of the world, that God speaks his life-giving Word of hope and forgiveness through Jesus. Consequently, we do not have to endure the uncertainties and suffering of life with stoic resignation. Rather, like Saint Paul we can be joyful in whatever circumstances befall us with the secure knowledge that God is with us, now and forever.
One of the prime functions of words is to signify meaning. There is a remarkable set of words in New Testament Greek that share a common linguistic root with the letters “char”: chara for “joy,” charis for “grace,” charismata for “gifts”, and eucharisteo, for “give thanks.” The latter, of course, gives us our word for eucharist, which has the root meaning of thanksgiving and joy for God’s gracious gift of Himself to us through the shedding of His Son’s blood that we might be reconciled to Him and to one another. All of these “char” words express a sense of being given a free gift, something that we do not deserve. When we can appreciate how much we have been given, our gratitude overflows into joy at the lavishness of God’s gracious giving of Himself to us. We then can hear God’s Word of Joy to us at the very center of our eucharistic celebration. So even in the midst of a penitential season we can heed the words of Saint Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).