Third Sunday in Advent

Deacon Blaine Barclay

December 11, 2016

Today is Gaudete Sunday, ‘Rejoice Sunday’, ‘Sunday of Joy’. Of course, every Sunday is a Sunday of joy because Sunday is the eighth day of the week, the day of the Lord Resurrection. The word ‘Gaudete’ can also be translated as delight, gladness, happiness, take pleasure in.  The joy we celebrated today is an anticipatory joy, a kind of liturgical foretaste, to help us prepare for the great feast of Christmas, what our collect today calls, ‘the feast of the Lord’s Nativity’, met with ‘glad rejoicing’ at the ‘joys of so great a salvation’.

Our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah really captures this sense of joyful anticipation.  Listen to Isaiah’s choice of words scattered throughout the text, ‘rejoice and blossom’, ‘rejoice with joy and singing’, ‘everlasting joy shall be upon their heads’, ‘they shall obtain joy and gladness’.  ‘Sorrow and sighing shall flee away’, you can just see them running away from your dancing feet.  I love the Prophet Isaiah.  You know the Hebrew word for joy is found more times in the book of the Prophet Isaiah than any other book in the Hebrew bible, and that it was Jesus’ favorite book to quote from, along with the Psalms of course.

Speaking of the Psalms.  Our psalm today is ‘saturated’ with joy.  It doesn’t mention ‘joy’ or ‘rejoicing’, but almost every line gives a reason for joy.  It praises God for being a God, ‘who executes justice for the oppressed’, ‘gives food to the hungry’, ‘sets prisoners free’, ‘opens the eyes of the blind’, ‘lifts up those who are bowed down’ under heavy burdens, ‘who upholds the orphan and the widow’, who is there for those who have no social hope, who are at the end of their rope, their hope, and their capacity to cope.

Imagine being in any of these situations. Imagine also of the joy of being restored or liberated from the particular burden.  Have you ever been hungry, really hungry?  I don’t mean, ‘like I could really use a snack right now’, kind of hungry.  I remember once in my mid twenties, I was hitchhiking on the East Coast, midway between Halifax and Yarmouth, I hadn’t eaten for a couple of days and someone gave me a small, dried, smoked, kipper.  Now in spite of my Scottish heritage, this is not normally my idea of something good to eat, at least not until you soaked it and served it up with some oatmeal, but I can still remember the joy I felt when I was given and ate that kipper.  In my mid teens I had a friend who spent the summer of 1969 in jail.  I can still remember how happy they were on the day of their release.  Those of you who walk with a cane or a walker, imagine the joy of being able to run or dance with facility and ease.  Liberation from any of the situations described in our psalm today would be a cause for great joy.

Our gospel also echoes this same joy.  John the Baptist, who has been languishing away in Herod’s prison, probably at the bottom of a dry well, literally, a hole in the ground, sends word to Jesus.  ‘’Are you the one who is to come or shall we look for another?’’ Remember, this is the same John the Baptist who ’lept for joy in his mother’s womb because he recognizes the presence of Jesus in Our Lady’s greeting.  What is Jesus is answer to John’s question?  Jesus answers with all reasons great joy. ’The blind receive their sight’, ’the lame walk’, ’the lepers are cleansed’, ’the deaf hear’, ’the dead are raised’, and ’the poor have good news preached to them’.

Such is the joy that is coming to us, has already pitched its tent in our midst, such is the joy of the gospel.  As Pope Frances said in his letter of the same name; ’’The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus”.  Does this mean that if I don’t have joy in my life, that I have not yet really encountered Jesus?  Perhaps.  God definitely wants to give each one of us more joy. ‘’Joy to the world the Lord is come”, or at least we anticipate today, on this Gaudete Sunday, the joy of God’s Advent in the person and mission of Jesus.  God gives us this anticipatory taste of the joy of God’s presence in our midst in order to strengthen us on our pilgrim journey to Christmas.  For as the Prophet Nehemiah reminds us; ’’The Joy of the Lord is your strength’’.  Not so much our joy, which can be a fleeting and passing thing, but God’s joy, ’the Joy of the Lord’; the way God delights in us, draws near to us, takes pleasure in our company, so much so that God takes on human flesh, human nature, right down to the bottom. Human flesh, God’s flesh, lying in a manger.  Are we ready to embrace this weakness

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.