Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to save you, Israel
Yesterday was of course Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. It takes its name from the first word of the introit in both the traditional Mass and the new order of Mass – Gaudete in Domino semper … Dominus prope est (ever rejoice in the Lord… the Lord is indeed near).
I suggest that, although there still remain 11 days of Advent till Christmas, we are now beginning inevitably to get very christmassy in our sentiments and even in the matters we find ourselves attending to.
Robert Herrick (1591-1674) was a celibate Royalist Devonshire parson who wrote some 2000 poems known for their lyricism. He was the one who said Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.
He wrote a number of poems for the Christmas weeks, among which was A Christmas Carol, written in 1648.
One may ask why I’m talking of Christmas carols while it’s still Advent. Well, there are Advent and Easter carols too and a carol was originally a circle dance, later a dance associated with a religious procession.
I’m suggesting that this poem of Herrick’s fits quite well as a Gaudete carol. In it, Christ’s advent is shown to be like Spring and Summer appearing suddenly in deep Winter.
Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honour to this day,
That sees December turn’d to May.
Why does the chilling winter’s morn
Smile like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like to a mead new-shorn,
Thus on the sudden?
I find this verse particularly poignant and adventy; lyrical, most certainly:
We see Him come, and know Him ours,
Who with His sunshine and His showers
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
We can watch Him coming now and see the world fill with life and colour as He approaches. That’s a bit like many of us would feel in these latter days of Advent. Actually, it is more likely our own interior “ground” gaining more and more life and colour – or lustre, as the poet says.