It's not all about sorrow
Lent is a serious time. It is a somber season. Its subject matter is weighty. But there is respite.
This past Sunday is known as Laetare Sunday in the Christian liturgical calendar. It is the Fourth Sunday in Lent. It is a time of embracing the joy that is Sunday – a “little Easter.” The Christian Faith sets aside, if only for a moment, the solemnity of Lent.
The day receives this title from the opening words of the Latin Mass for the day. We translate Laetare as “Rejoice!” The introit for the day quotes Isaiah 66:10, “Rejoice, O Jerusalem.”
One of the distinguishing marks of the day is that churches that employ colored vestments (the fabric pieces that adorn the Communion Table, lectern, pulpit and the stoles worn by choirs and clergy) set aside the violet or purple that they usually employ in Lent. They replace these appointments for the day with rose-colored pieces.
It is an interesting aside that this practice – using rose-colored vestments halfway through Lent -- is at the root of an often-misunderstood practice in Advent. In churches that employ an Advent Wreath to help observe that season, the color scheme for the candles is sometimes three purple and one rose (pink) candle. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent as a reflection of the rose paraments of Lent. It is a little-understood and less-interpreted practice that inspires more confusion than real meaning. Fortunately, the church is moving away from purple and toward blue as the color that it employs in Advent. That will help (some) in clearing up the confusion.
So, in the week off Laetare, let us rejoice. The austerity does not last forever. The self-denial will pass.
And Easter is coming.