Rejoice or Mourn?
Today marks the third week of Advent. This Sunday is known as “Gaudete” and is symbolized with a pink candle and often the wearing of pink vestments. It is also the beginning of our week discussing grace from the subjective approach.
Subjective probability is an individual person’s measure of belief that an event will occur. Most of us believe in the eventuality of our own death and the death of every other person living. Death is the natural order of things begun with our birth. It is the belief of what happens after our physical bodies cease their function that separates people into groups.
The third Sunday in Advent signifies that we are but fourteen days away from the celebration of Christmas and the commemoration of the birth of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth. It is this event for which the rejoicing of the day speaks. It was also the beginning of a corporal life, a life which would end with its demise.
Without sounding trite, there really are two sides to every coin. A famous hymn written for this day speaks of this. “The time of grace has come, what we have wished for… Where the light is raised, salvation is found…. Therefore let our preaching now sing in brightness.” The hymn these words are taken from is titled quite simply, “Gaudete”. It was published in a collection of Finnish and Swedish tunes in 1582 in a collection known as “Piae Cantiones” although it is believed to have been a chant used at least one hundred years earlier.
The structure of the hymn is simple and reflects most of the period. A four line stanza composed the verse with a two line stanza being the chorus. Today the chorus of a song is the part everyone knows and generally sings the loudest. In the sixteenth century, though, such a two line stanza was known as the burden because it carried the song from verse to verse. The difference between “chorus” and “burden” would be…you guessed it, subjective, in our modern times.
Generally about now, parents are running out of patience and time for holiday gatherings and chores while children seem to pull energy out of thin air. One does not have to believe in the meaning behind Christmas to feel the effects of the season. As winter sets in, people are taking every chance they can to complete outside chores and get ready for that “long winter’s nap” known as “too cold to be outside” weather. While lights adorn buildings and houses twinkling with glee, tempers become frayed and money woes abound. There seems to never be enough time, money, or grace.
One of the more common aspects of Advent is the lighting of a candle each week. The Advent wreath is known worldwide with each candle symbolic of the week it heralds. The third Sunday candle for the Advent wreath is pink usually but it not only is symbolic of the joy that believers feel is coming, but also grace. Halfway through the third week of Advent, the accompanying readings change their tune and become the biography of the baby for whose birth the season culminates.
In selecting the themes for this blog, having decided to organize my posts by using a liturgical calendar, I tend to be a little bit tongue-in-cheek about things. During Epiphany one year, Epiphany being the liturgical season which speaks of the recognition by nonbelievers and those not of the same culture of the true purpose of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth, I wrote about the epiphanies men and women had. These epiphanies led to some very common and amazing inventions. Another Advent, the first or beginning season, I wrote about creation stories. This year, though, I went to the very heart of Advent for my theme.
Advent is known as the time to prepare and it is fitting since it falls at a time of year when the season are changing. Depending on which hemisphere you are in, you might be preparing for summer or for winter. Regardless, change is coming and we need to prepare. Once we have prepared, though, what comes next? After you get up and get ready each day what needs to happen once you are at your destination – whether it be the kitchen counter in your own home or the office?
The answer to that is the true meaning of Advent. It is not just the coming – the coming of a new day or the coming of a Messiah – of which Advent bespeaks. Advent is about grace, grace received and grace shared. We do not all perceive nor share that grace the same, however. For some an incident is a time for rejoicing and for others, a period of mourning.
Subjective refers to personal perspectives, feelings, or opinions entering the decision making process. It is easiest to understand this approach if we use an example of investing in stock. Let’s say your best friend owns a company and you want to invest in it because you like your friend. Objectively, though, the company is not performing very well.
Investors that are successful make their decisions based on hard analysis of the facts. They select a stock option with the best return for their money or that best meets their objectives. When making investing decisions it’s always important to make sure you think about and consider whether you are letting subjective thoughts work their way into the process.
Should we use that same approach when investing in people, when we engage in a relationship with others? The empirical approach to grace is based upon observation while the classical was based upon known theory. For instance, if someone slapped another with a glove in the sixteenth century, it was considered an invitation to a duel. Using a classical response, the two would meet at a specific time and place and with chosen weapons. Using an empirical response, the person slapped would select said weapons based upon his opponent’s skill with the options. A subjective approach might consider the reasons for the slapping and one’s basic instinctive feeling about the sincerity of the fight. After all, a perceived insult might just be a matter of misunderstanding. This is where grace would be of great help.
History is full of pages and pages of interactions without grace evident at all to the observer. To those participating, it might be all about grace, grace and respect. This week I hope you take a moment to truly approach your situation and find the grace in it, not just for yourself but for everyone involved.
It is easy to get angry and to mourn. It takes courage to find the joy and rejoice. Advent is about grace, grace received and grace shared. It is a season of believing. Faith and generosity overcome impossibility. Poverty and persecution reveal glory.