Laetare Sunday in Lent (or Lent 4 if you prefer to worship as if Vatican II were in St Louis rather than Rome, and/or as if Rome still called the shots on worship) takes its name from the Introit for the day, as do most named Sundays. The Introit is taken from Isaiah 66:10-11 and Psalm 121:1 (unless you use Christian Worship which does away with Introits as effectively as any "praise" service).
Rejoice ye with Jerusalem and be glad with her: all ye that love her.
Rejoice for joy with her: all ye that mourn for her.
Ps. I was glad when they said unto me: Let us go into the house of the Lord.
Glory be etc.
Sometimes Laetare is seen as kind of a break from Lent. But why a break, why does the church in her liturgy offer rejoicing in a penitential season? Because we need one? Because we deserve one? Hardly.
We need salvation, and we deserve nothing. But God has dealt with us not according to what we deserve, but according to his unfailing love, and became one of us to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away. Which we shall shortly celebrate in Holy Week and Easter. Which is such great news that it even breaks forth into the penitential time of preparation for it. That even as the events which it celebrates so completely broke the bonds of sin and death from which we can not free ourselves, so can the season of penitence to prepare for it not be without a recognition liturgically of the joy to which it leads. That is not a break from Lent. It is an essential part of it! It drives us forward to the Easter message without which Lent has no meaning or reason and degenerates into another futile attempt to impress God with our observances, be it fasting or loud praise.
For as the Epistle and Gospel for the day say, we are children not of the covenant of the slave woman but of the free, not of the covenant that shows us our sin, but that shows us our Saviour, and from what the world sees as simple products of it, our Lord will bless it, break it and give it to us with more than enough to go around!
So rejoice indeed! We who were barren can now bear fruit!
PS -- pastors, did you wear your rose vestments to-day?
PPS -- Dr Tighe, thank you so much for the book you so thoughtfully sent. Re earlier posts on another blog -- the station for Laetare as you well know is The Holy Cross in Jerusalem!
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