Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sunday Homily - A Rose by any Other Name, Except Pink

The following is the text of my homily for this past Sunday, (the image is not of the chasuble I wore, but it makes the point):

"By now you would have probably noticed that I'm wearing a new vestment, one that you would not have seen before.  I acquired it over the summer, but I'm willing to venture a guess, that most of you here have never seen a priest wearing a vestment of this colour before.  Certainly we're aware of the candle for this Sunday in the Advent wreath, but rarely do we see a priest wearing a vestment in this colour.  That's likely because, following the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council, this particular liturgical colour, which we only use two days a year (the third Sunday of Advent, and the fourth Sunday of Lent) became optional, and sadly, so often when things become optional, they tend to become obsolete.  If we take the principle, though, that in her liturgy, the Church never does anything without a reason and explanation behind it, we have to ask the question, why does the Church give us a liturgical colour that we only use on these two occasions, what is the significance behind it?  To answer that question, we need to first make a very fine, but very important distinction.

So often, when we see the third candle in the wreath, and on those rare occasions when we see the priest wearing vestments of this colour, we describe it with the word 'pink', but the Church says that the colour we may use today is not pink, but 'rose'.  So what's the difference?  Well I don't want to turn this into a lesson on colour theory, but how do you get the colour 'pink', you combine the colour 'red' with the colour 'white'.  How do you get the colour 'rose', you combine the colour 'violet' with the colour 'white', and there is the key distinction.  Two weeks ago we examined what the colour 'violet' means, that it is a colour associated with 'penance'.  What does the colour 'white' symbolize, to answer that, all we need to do is look to those occasions in our liturgical calendar when the colour is used, Christmas, Easter, the feast days of saints; the colour 'white' symbolizes 'joy'.  So in this rose colour, we have that combination of penance and joy.

You might be asking yourselves right now how can we combine these two seemingly opposite things, penance and joy.  However, so many of the important beliefs and truths of our faith are a combination of things which seem to be opposites, even contradictions.  All we need to do is look at the person of Jesus Christ himself, is he God, or is he a human being, well he's both.  How is that possible, that is the mystery of the Incarnation, but he is fully God, and fully a human being.  Is God one, or is God three, again he's both.  He's one God in three divine persons, how is that possible, that is the great mystery of the Holy Trinity.  What about the Holy Eucharist, is it a symbol, or is it the real presence of Christ?  Again, it is both, it is the real presence of Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity, it is the sacrifice of the Cross made present to us on the altar, but all we see is bread and wine, a symbol pointing to the greater reality.  So how can we have this combination of penance and joy, two seemingly opposite and contradictory things, very easily, we just call it Hope!

If we think about it, Hope, by its very definition is something that is unfulfilled, something that we are waiting for, something that we are longing for, and we human beings really don't like to wait.  Particularly now in our fast paced, instant gratification culture, it so often seems that if we have to wait for something, it's almost not worth getting.  That can be a penance in itself, but if it is a spiritual reality that we are waiting for then we must prepare ourselves as well, and that preparation takes the form of prayer and penance.  As we wait though, we do not do so in fear and trepidation, we wait with joy, because what we await is the glorious return of our Lord, a day when, as our gospel tells us, 'the blind will see, the lame will walk, the deaf will hear, and the dead will be raised'.  Even more than that, we wait with joy, because our Lord has already come, and by his sacrifice on the Cross, he has already freed us from the power of sin and death.

We are called to be a people of Hope, which means that we need to have both of these elements.  If we eliminate the penance, the waiting, the longing, the preparation, then all we are doing is living for the moment.  It may seem good for a while, but ultimately we know that it will prove to be unfulfilling.  If we eliminate the joy, then all we have left is despair, we wait, but we do so with fear and trepidation, we don't look forward to a glorious reality.  Not only are we called to be people who live in hope, but we are called to proclaim that hope to a world so often filled with despair, sadness, and fear.  As the prophet Isaiah says in our first reading, 'Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God."'  We are called to proclaim the hope we have to all those around us, the hope we have in Christ Jesus, and the glorious day of his return.

So why does the Church give us this colour, this rose colour, in the mid-point of this Advent season.  In the midst of this time of penance and preparation, as we wait for the coming Christmas celebrations, and as we wait for our Lord's glorious return, it is a reminder that we do so in a spirit of Hope.  What we await is a glorious day, when all things will be made new.  We look forward in joy, knowing that Christ has already freed us from the power of sin and death.  We proclaim that hope to all those we meet, in this world marked by fear and despair.  Above all, we proclaim our need to prepare ourselves worthily and well, to celebrate the glorious day of our Lord's return, so that we may be truly ready to greet him when he comes."


  1. Father, what time do you usually say Mass on Sundays?

  2. The Masses at our parish are 5pm Saturday, and 8:30, 10:15, and noon on Sunday. The Masses I say vary depending on the schedule I work out with my pastor, but I usually say two of the four.