Laetare Sunday Rejoice!

By Ms. Tiffany Haller, Director of Faith Formation, St. Ann Roman Catholic Church

La what Sunday? Laetare Sunday. It is a Roman Catholic tradition celebrated during the fourth Sunday in Lent, this Sunday. Laetare translates from Latin and means “rejoice.” But, you say, Lent is a time for fasting (practicing self-control), prayer (seeking the Lord in scripture and meditation or contemplation), and almsgiving (sharing the gifts we have received from God, not just monetarily but of our time and talents as well). Yes, Lent is a period of forty days during which Christians remember the events leading up to and including the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus’s life and his teachings are the basis of Christianity.

Isaiah 66:10-11 states, “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exalt and be satisfied at her consoling breast.” This verse from Isaiah is the inspiration for the theme of Laetare Sunday. Even the liturgical (rite for public worship) color used for this day is celebratory: rose. The color rose represents a time of joy amid the somber Lenten period of fasting and prayer. The change in color from Lenten violet indicates a glimpse of the joy that awaits us at Easter. The timing is just before we enter the somber days of Passiontide.

The delight of Easter approaching is symbolized in a few other interesting liturgical options. During Lent, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal does not allow flowers on the altar. But there’s a temporary halt to these penitential observations on Laetare Sunday (as well as solemnities and feasts within the Lenten season). Bring on the flowers!

Here is another interesting, fun fact about Laetare Sunday: marriages were generally forbidden during Lent, but Laetare Sunday was an exception when marriages could be celebrated during this penitential season. Now marriages are forbidden on Good Friday and Holy Saturday only. But Laetare Sunday is still a fitting day for those wishing to be married in the church before Eastertide.

As we approach the darkness and horror of the days through Good Friday and Holy Saturday, Laetare Sunday is an opportunity to savor and remember what awaits us on Easter Sunday: the reality that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and that our hearts will always be filled with happiness!

I hope the awareness of this tradition and its customs helps in understanding and appreciating the beauty of faith. So, celebrate this Laetare Fourth Sunday of Lent along with the rest of the Lenten season, the fifty days of Easter, and beyond. Why not take advantage of the richness of some faith traditions, old or new (if even just to you). It just might spark some joy! Rejoice!