Two Bach cantatas are associated with the third Sunday in Advent. Both are “lost” cantatas.
- The first is BWV 186a, “Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht” (Fret not, O soul), a later version of which is played on the 7th Sunday After Trinity.
- The second is BWV 141, “Das ist je gewißlich wahr” (This is now the gospel truth), which is recognized as having been composed by someone else (perhaps George Telemann).
Therefore, we will focus our attention on other things this Sunday.
• • •
This is Gaudete (Rejoicing) Sunday. In the midst of Advent’s long journey, our worship on this day calls us to lift up our eyes, focus anew on our destination, and find renewed strength and refreshment from realizing that“our redemption draws near.” To mark this day, the liturgical colors are changed from deep purple or blue to rose-pink. That is why the third candle is different than the others on the Advent Wreath.
This day has a counterpart in Lent: Laetare Sunday. Both come just past the midpoint of a penitential season and are designed as merciful reprieves from the demands of fasting so that the Church might be encouraged in the feast to come. In Lent as well, the purple vestments are swapped out for pink or rose-colored ones, and the theme is joy and rejoicing.
The introit for Gaudete is Philippians 4:4 — “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Today’s text from Isaiah graphically pictures the joy of the new creation and how this message of hope can bring rejoicing to our hearts even now:
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
…And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
• Isaiah 35:1-2a, 10
Joy is best expressed through singing! Here is the group Libera, singing the 16th century Latin carol, “Gaudete.” The repeated refrain proclaims: “Rejoice! Rejoice! Christ is born of the Virgin Mary! Rejoice!” The verses proclaim that the time of grace has come, God has taken flesh, the world has been renewed, the light has been born, and salvation has been found because of Christ’s coming.