Today is Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday in the Season of Advent
The season of Advent originated as a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas. In the ninth century, the duration of Advent was reduced to four weeks and by the twelfth century the fast had been replace by simple abstinence.
Not withstanding the changes occurring over the centuries, Advent preserved most of the characteristics of a penitential season which made it a kind of counterpart to lent. The third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, breaks through a season that is otherwise penitential to signify the nearness of the Lord’s coming.
Guadete Sunday is further marked by a new invitatory, the Church no longer inviting the faithful to adore merely “Come, let us worship the Lord, the King who is to come”, but calling upon them to worship and hail with joy “The Lord is close at hand; come, let us worship him.”
Advent is a time of expectation and preparation for the Christmas feast as well as for the second coming of Christ, and the penitential exercises suitable to this season are thus on Gaudete Sunday suspended, for awhile, in order to symbolize our joy and gladness in the Promised Redemption which should never be absent from the heart of the faithful.