The Church, through the medium of Liturgical Year, reminds us that Laetare (Rejoice!) is not just the name of a single day but it is an inescapable spiritual perspective for a lifetime. The Easter truth informs our faith every Sunday and every day of the year.
This has been a particularly hard winter for many of us… with record and enduring low temperatures, ever growing piles of snow and ice, ice, ice. The darkness of winter and the challenges inherent in that season try us. They turn us inward like a warm house on a snowy night calls us in and out of the wind. There is a beautiful parallel for us in this hemisphere, at least, between the natural season and the Liturgical season. Drawing us inward the Penitential Season of Lent invites us to reflect on the journey of our spiritual life and our growth in our relationship with God and others. There is a sense of Retreat when we pause and take the time apart to examine and sit with those deepest realities that anchor our faith.
As the winter has been hard, Lent, too, can be difficult. Knowing that, the Church in her wisdom marks the half-way point in the Lenten Season to allow us to take a breath amid the serious reflection and work of the penitential season. Part of the beauty of the entire Liturgical Year is this built-in rhythm that interfaces with the natural seasons and allows us, if we give ourselves to it, to move forward with the pace that our will and God’s good grace lead. Laetare Sunday, with its correlative partner, Gaudate Sunday in Advent, invites us to remember and celebrate, and, yes, rejoice as it echoes the Introit of the traditional Latin Mass, “Rejoice! Oh Jerusalem!” The rose vestments which replace the purple for a day are a surprise and a reminder of the Easter kerygma that enlivens our faith with love and enduring hope.
In the midst of our reflection in this penitential season, the theme of forgiveness and healing encourages us to embrace the redemptive grace of Easter. Our frailty, our “Happy Fault” is an occasion for growth and God’s good grace. The image of a clay pot, an earthen vessel, has always spoken to me. It is fragile, flawed, often broken and mirrors our human condition. A psychologist friend once humorously commented that many of us are broken while some are just a little cracked. All kidding aside, it’s not difficult to see ourselves in this image. The wonderful lyricist Leonard Cohen wrote in his poem/song Anthem, “forget your perfect offering, there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Rejoice, I say again rejoice, not in the crack, but in the light!
Susan O’Hara teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.