Six hundred years before the coming of Christ, God sent the prophet Zephaniah to call his people to conversion. Zephaniah called the Kingdom of Judah to observe the promise of the covenant, and to wait in hope for the fulfillment of God’s promises. Zephaniah foretold that “a mighty savior” would bring glory, and peace, and joy, to the Lord’s chosen people.
“Rejoice, daughter of Zion, shout, Israel,” Zephaniah proclaimed, “the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, a mighty savior, who will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.”
When the angel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary to announce that she would bear the Messiah, he greeted her with the Greek word chaire, which means “Rejoice!”
“Rejoice, O favored one of God,” Gabriel proclaimed. “The Lord is with you!”
Gabriel had good reason to call Mary to rejoice. As the angel spoke, he reminded her of the promises of the prophets, and he told her that the long-awaited savior would be her son; that through her, the Lord would renew the people of Israel “in his love.”
When Christ was born, angels appeared to shepherds outside of Bethlehem, with a call to rejoice. The angels appeared with “good news of great joy,” and appeared as a multitude expressing their joy in praise to the Lord.
Joy is the gift the Lord Jesus gives the world by his Incarnation. Joy is a supernatural gift. Joy comes from heaven. Pope Benedict XVI wrote that “joy appears” during Advent “as the particular gift of the Holy Spirit, the true gift of the Redeemer. So a chord is sounded with the angel’s salutation which then resounds throughout the life of the Church.”
During Advent, the Church remembers the gift of joy that the Lord gives us, especially on Advent’s third Sunday: Gaudete Sunday. For more than one thousand years, the Church has celebrated a moment of joy during the season of Advent—because when we experience joy, we know that the Lord is near. When we experience joy in the liturgy of Gaudete Sunday, we know that the Lord’s Incarnation, at Christmas, is nearing.
Joy is the fruit of faith, hope, and love. And it is the response of our souls to communion with God. Joy is a mark of faith—those who know the Lord, and who are near to him, well up with joy. On Gaudete Sunday, we pray that the Lord might increase our joy, and in so doing, we pray that we might draw ever closer to Jesus Christ, the source of all joy.
Chaire, “rejoice” — with which Gabriel greeted Mary — has the same root as charis, the Greek word for grace. Pope Benedict XVI wrote that “joy and grace belong together.”
During this season of Advent, may we continue to pray that the Holy Spirit increase our joy, and that the Lord might be ever close to us. May we receive the grace of the Eucharist, and the grace of mercy, which “belongs together” with joy. May we rejoice with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, because the Lord is truly with us!