Sunday, March 30, 2014

“Laetare, Jerusalem!”

Today, the Western church celebrates the Fourth Sunday of Lent, also known as “Laetare Sunday” for the opening of the Entrance Antiphon (Introit) of the Mass: “Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis sam ...” (“Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her ...”) Amidst the desert that is the penitential season of Lent, our Mother the Church offers us a brief oasis, wherein the vestments of purple are given a dash of white, to produce the color known as rose (not be be confused with pink). Traditionally, the Holy Father commissions roses to be made of pure gold, which are presented to random heads of state each year. That which was given by Pope Paul VI is reserved today at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.

The sanctuaries of churches are permitted to have flowers on this one day during the Great Fast, and the organ can be played in a manner other than to support the singing.

Flowers preach to us if we will hear:--
The rose saith in the dewy morn:
I am most fair;
Yet all my loveliness is born
Upon a thorn.

The poppy saith amid the corn:
Let but my scarlet head appear
And I am held in scorn;
Yet juice of subtle virtue lies
Within my cup of curious dyes.
The lilies say: Behold how we
Preach without words of purity.
The violets whisper from the shade

Which their own leaves have made:
Men scent our fragrance on the air,
Yet take no heed
Of humble lessons we would read.

But not alone the fairest flowers:
The merest grass
Along the roadside where we pass,
Lichen and moss and sturdy weed,
Tell of His love who sends the dew,
The rain and sunshine too,
To nourish one small seed.

-- Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

And so we rest in preparation for the severity of Passiontide, which comes upon us the following Sunday.

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