“With prompt devotion and eager faith”
The nickname Laetare originated from the first word of the Introit chant for Sunday’s Mass, “Rejoice!”
On Laetare Sunday there is a slight relaxation of Lent’s penitential spirit, because we have a glimpse of the joy that is coming at Easter, now near at hand.
The custom of using rose vestments is tied to the Station churches in Rome. The Station for Laetare Sunday is the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem where the relics of Cross and Passion brought from the Holy Land by St. Helena (+c. 329), mother of the Emperor Constantine (+337), were deposited. It was the custom on this day for Popes to bless roses made of gold, some amazingly elaborate and bejeweled, which were to be sent to Catholic kings, queens and other notables. The biblical reference is Christ as the “flower” sprung forth from the root of Jesse (Is 11:1 – in the Vulgate flos “flower” and RSV “branch”). Thus Laetare was also called Dominica de rosa…. Sunday of the Rose. It didn’t take a lot of imagination to develop rose coloured vestments from this. Remember, the colour of the vestments is called rosacea, not pink (especially not baby-rattle pink). This Roman custom spread by means of the Roman Missal to the whole of the world. (H/T to Fr Z)
UPDATE – Fr. Peter Fehlner (FFI), gave this splendid sermon on the readings of the Ordinary Form Mass for Laetare Sunday:
From the Saint Andrew Daily Missal:
Commentary for the Readings in the Extraordinary Form:
Fourth Sunday of Lent
“Jesus then took the loaves and . . .distributed them to those reclining, . . . as much as they wished” (Gospel).
During this week the history of Moses is read by the Church in the divine office in which two main lines of thought are summarised. On the one hand, we see Moses rescuing God’s people from the bondage of Egypt and bringing them safely across the Red Sea. On the other, we see him nourishing them with manna in the desert; foretelling to them that God will send “the Prophet” (Gospel), in other words the Messias; giving them the Law of Sinai; and leading them towards the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. There one day Jerusalem will rise from the ground with its temple made after the pattern of the Tabernacle in the desert and thither will the tribes of Israel go up to sing of what God has done for his people (Introit, Gradual, Communion). “Let my people go that they sacrifice to me in the desert,” said God to Pharao, through Moses.
In today’s Mass we see how these types have been fulfilled. For the true Moses is Christ, who has delivered us from the bondage of sin; and made us pass through the waters of Baptism; who feeds us with his Eucharist of which the multiplication of the loaves is a type, and who has brought us into the true Jerusalem, the Church, figure of heaven, where we shall sing forever the “canticle of Moses and of the Lamb” (Apocalypse) in thanksgiving to the Lord for His infinite mercies to us.
It is, therefore, quite natural that the station today should be made in Rome at the Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. For St.Helena, the mother of Constantine, who lived on Mount Coelius in a palace known as the Sessorian mansion, with the purpose of placing there some relics of the true Cross, converted it into a sanctuary, which in some sense represents Jerusalem in Rome.
The Introit, Communion and Tract speak to us of Jerusalem compared to Mount Sinai by St. Paul in the Epistle for today. There, will the Christian people best raise their song of joy, “Laetare” (Introit, Epistle) on account of the victory won by our Lord on the cross at Jerusalem, and there most easily, will be roused the memory of the heavenly Jerusalem, whose gates have been opened by the death of Christ.
Here in the Church of Calvary at Rome, that is of the Cross, our hope, the Church sends a ray of light upon our souls to stir us up to persevere in the struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil, until the great feast of Easter is reached.
Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled with the breasts of your consolation. Ps. I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord. v. Glory be to the Father…
(Galatians iv. 22-31)
I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord. v. Let peace be in Thy strength; and abundance in Thy towers.
(John vi. 1-15)
(Psalm cxxi. 3-4).