Riches of the Roman Missal: the Sundays of Lent (IV)

On the Sunday of Joy, the fourth Sunday of Lent, the collect prayer and the liturgy invite us to approach the redemptive mystery of Christ.

Carlos Guillén-March 18, 2023-Reading time: 3 minutes
Roman Missal Lent

On the fourth Sunday of Lent the liturgy helps us contemplate the mystery and joy of redemption (Unsplash / Josh Applegate).

Crossing the equator of Lent, we come to the Sunday called Laetare by the first words of the entrance antiphon: "Rejoice, Jerusalem...!". Surprisingly, this Sunday's Collect has no direct reference to the joy proper to this Sunday.

O God, who through your Word bring about in a marvelous way the reconciliation of the human race, grant that the Christian people may hasten, with joyful faith and diligent dedication, to celebrate the coming Paschal feasts.Deus, qui per Verbum tuum humáni géneris reconciliatiónem mirabíliter operáris, praesta, quaésumus, ut pópulus christiánus prompta devotióne et álacri fide ad ventúra sollémnia váleat festináre.

Before going deeper into its content, it should be noted that this new text for the Missal of Paul VI was composed on the basis of a prayer from the sacramentary. Gelasianum Vetus and to a Lenten sermon by Pope St. Leo the Great (+461). 

From amazement to joy

The structure of this sentence consists of the shortest possible invocation -Deus-followed by an interesting anamnesis clause and a single petition. The part of greatest theological depth is that recollection of the admirable way in which the Father brings about the reconciliation of the human race through his Word. This is the key around which not only the text of the Collect but the whole liturgy revolves, since the reconciliation of humanity through the Word made man is the center of our faith. 

Let us note the fine way in which the Church converts doctrine into contemplation with a single word: mirabiliter. Liturgical prayer (lex orandi) proposes the truth that we must believe (lex credendi), but it also helps us to desire it, awakening our amazement. The attention is fixed on that way so out of the ordinary, so proper to the work of God, the only one capable of doing truly "admirable" things. The use of this adverb projects us towards Easter Sunday, where admiration will reach its climax in the Easter Proclamation: "What an astonishing benefit of your love for us! What incomparable tenderness and charity! To redeem the slave, you gave the Son! Necessary was the sin of Adam, which has been erased by the death of Christ. Blessed is the guilt that deserved such a Redeemer!

Let us find here the strongest foundation of our joy as Christians, in this amazement at the love of God the Trinity for mankind that leads the Church to invite her children to rejoice, to rejoice and to exult with joy. It is very appropriate to quote one of the first texts of the pontificate of Francis: "The joy of the Gospel fills the heart and the whole life of those who encounter Jesus. Those who allow themselves to be saved by him are freed from sin, from sadness, from inner emptiness, from isolation. With Jesus Christ joy is always born and reborn".

From joy to haste

It is not about remembering amazing events of the past, which no longer affect us. The present indicative of the verb operis emphasizes that reconciliation continues to take place today, especially through the action of the Holy Spirit in the liturgical celebration; it is something that affects us existentially. From this conviction comes what we then ask of God: that his people may be able to hasten (festinare) in order to arrive at these upcoming solemnities with a ready, willing and prepared delivery (prompta devotione) and a lively, active, animated faith (alacri fide).

The collection for the Fourth Sunday of Lent transmits this movement to us, it reminds us that we are on pilgrimage. It makes us think, for example, of the joyful and hasty march of the Virgin (cum festinatione) when she went to visit Elizabeth, when she learned from the angel that her cousin was in the sixth month of pregnancy (cf. Lk 1:39); and also in the firm decision with which Jesus went up to Jerusalem with his disciples, when his Passion was already near (cf. Lk 9:51; 12:50; 13:33).

Amazement and joy set God's people on the way. To be sustained on the way and to reach the end, it is necessary to ask for faith, faith with works, and also to be willing to carry one's cross generously in pursuit of the Master. The reward will be to enter into his Kingdom, into joy, into Life. St. Josemaría used to say that "authentic love brings with it joy: a joy that has its roots in the form of the Cross" (Forge, n. 28). A Christian's penance is joyful, not because it does not cost him, but because he lives joyfully in Christ, even when he identifies himself with him by carrying the Cross. And on the horizon of his journey, which he travels with haste, joyful faith and diligent dedication, is the feast that will never end.

The authorCarlos Guillén

Priest from Peru. Liturgist.

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