Willis Patterson, John McCollum, Richard Cross with Kurt Yaghjian as Amahl and Martha King his mother in the 1963 production (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Icy conditions kept me home from church today, the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday. How is this possible, you ask? Well, we do not park our vehicles in the garage (the explanation for this will have to wait for another blog entry), therefore the rain that fell all day yesterday, which turned to sleet and then snow when the temperature dropped overnight, produced a thick layer of ice on the car and froze the car doors shut. It also turned our driveway into a frozen, lumpy, slippery obstacle course. The time I allowed myself to free the ice-imprsoned car was not enough to get the job done and arrive at church on time – not by a long shot. Very. Frustrating. Especially since this is one of my favorite Sundays of the year. Even as a kid I loved the third Sunday in Advent. One reason was because it has a cool name; who can dislike the word ‘gaudete’? It is pronounced gow (as in cow)- day – tay. Even saying it brings on a smile, which is very appropriate because the translation of the word gaudete is: “be joyful” or “rejoice”.
The second reason to love Gaudete Sunday was that it is the Sunday to light the pink candle on the Advent wreath. In our house we had a traditional advent wreath on our kitchen table. The wreath had four candles; three white and one pink. It was something to look forward to, this lighting of the pink candle. Finally – color and light together! Here was sparkling beauty meant to give relief to your eyes and heart during the long, dark winter days, while also presenting the promise of the coming spring.
The final reason to love Gaudete Sunday as a kid was that this was proof that we were actually getting close to Christmas. Somehow the calendar lacked the ability to measure time in an encouraging manner. Waiting day by slowly-dragging-day for the 25th of December to arrive was torture, where as counting by weeks using the Advent wreath was quite satisfying; “Three weeks down, and one to go until Christmas,” is what Gaudete Sunday made clear to me.
But what to do today, at home alone on Gaudete Sunday? After a few minutes of thought, I lit three candles on the advent wreath, and found the CD of the one-act opera by Gian Carlo Menotti, called Amahl and Night Visitors. This hour-long opera tells the story of a poor widow and her crippled son who welcome three royal visitors who are on their way to visit the new-born King. The CD is of the 1951 Christmas Eve production by the NBC Television Theater. You can see the entire 1951 performance, including an introduction to the opera by the composer, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzx-s46vjpY
In the past, the story and the music of Amahl and the Night Visitors had been be able to break through the icy condition of my heart, and warm it up to receive the good news of Christ’s birth with thanksgiving and joy, and today was no different. Happily, the beautiful little opera changed the frustration and difficulties of everyday life into a time of worshipping the Lord. And I guess that is the real meaning of Gaudete Sunday, isn’t it?
“You turned my mourning into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”Psalm 30:11