Vicar's Musings for Advent 3
16 December, 2018
Today is Gaudete Sunday, so-called from the opening of the traditional Introit for the third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete in Domino semper "rejoice in the Lord always" from St Paul's letter to the Philippians 4:4. It is a day to rejoice, but also to remember that we are still in the penitential season of Advent. It is a foretaste of the great Feast of the Nativity that will soon be upon us. As one blog I read this week puts it, Gaudete Sunday is a day of "subdued joy and encouragement for our continuance of Advent."
It is a good message, as the weeks leading up to Christmas can be a particularly stressful time. Deadlines are set for the end of the year. "Christmas" parties abound in Advent, and over indulgence of alcohol — that flows with abundance at this time of year — can add significantly to the stress. Sadly domestic violence is one of the indicators. Police and emergency services prepare for a spike in call outs to homes. Since the first Sunday of Advent another three women have been killed through domestic violence, bringing the total this year to sixty-six.
As church-goers we are by no means immune from this seasonal stress. The Body of Christ is a group of people, with clay feet and human frailties like everyone else. On Gaudete Sunday it is fitting to intentionally set aside our anxieties, and the stresses of the end-of-year pre-Christmas rush: to pause, to pray, to place our concerns before God. It is a good discipline to remind ourselves of God's grace, to give thanks for God's mercies over recent days, weeks and months. Perhaps today there is someone I need to forgive, or at least take steps towards putting things right with someone I have hurt, or someone who has hurt me.
A particular expression of "subdued joy" this Gaudete Sunday is our thanksgiving for the life of the Rev'd Dr Colin Peter Holden (19th October 1951 – 12th July 2016). Fr Colin was a beloved priest of the parish for many years, who wrote a substantive history of our church as part of the sesquicentenary celebrations: From Tories at Prayer to Socialists at Mass: St Peter's, Eastern Hill, Melburne 1846-1990 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1996). At the end of High Mass today there will be a deposition of Fr Colin's ashes in the crypt beneath the High Altar, and the blessing of a memorial plaque. After Mass there will be a little party in the Parish Hall, in good decorous Advent fashion. All are warmly invited. May he rest in peace ... and rise in glory!
The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster
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