Most Catholic people are used to Mass being conducted in English (or their native language) and rarely think about the fact that Latin remains the official language of the Catholic Church. But occasionally, Latin terms sneak back in as in the case of Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. The date is moveable as it is dependent on the date of Easter, which changes annually based on lunar activity.
Christian Denominations Use of the Term: The term Laetare Sunday is used by most Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, and by some Protestant denominations, particularly those with Latin liturgical traditions like Lutherans.
What Does Laetare Mean? Laetare means “Rejoice” in Latin. The 40 days of Lent are a time for solemnity according to Roman Catholic doctrine, so how is it possible to celebrate during a time for meditative reflection? Quite simply, the church recognized that people need a break from sorrow.
The fourth Sunday was considered a day of relaxation from the normal rigors of Lent. It was a day of hope with Easter within sight. Traditionally, weddings, which were otherwise banned during Lent, could be performed on this day.
Religious Doctrine and Biblical Reference
In both the traditional Latin Mass and even after the shortening of church rituals during Mass with the Novus Ordo, the short chant that is sung prior to the Eucharist is from is Isaiah 66:10-11, which begins Laetare, Jerusalem, which means “Rejoice, O Jerusalem.” Because the midpoint of Lent is the Thursday of the third week of Lent, Laetare Sunday has traditionally been viewed as a day of celebration, on which the austerity of Lent is briefly lessened.
The passage from Isaiah continues, “Rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow,” and on Laetare Sunday, the purple vestments and altar cloths of Lent are set aside, and rose ones are used instead. Flowers, which are normally forbidden during Lent, may be placed on the altar. Traditionally, the organ was never played during Lent, except on Laetare Sunday.
Every Friday during Lent, the Devotion called Stations of The Cross takes place moving around the Parish.
What is Stations of The Cross?
The Stations of the Cross or the Way of the Cross, also known as the Way of Sorrows or the Via Crucis, refers to a series of images depicting Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion and accompanying prayers. The stations grew out of imitations of Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem which is believed to be the actual path Jesus walked to Mount Calvary. The object of the stations is to help the Christians faithful to make a spiritual pilgrimage through contemplation of the Passion of Christ.
The style, form, and placement of the stations vary widely. The typical stations are small plaques with reliefs or paintings placed around a church nave.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent.
Ashes are ceremonially placed on the heads of Christians on Ash Wednesday, either by being sprinkled over their heads or, in English-speaking countries, more often by being marked on their foreheads as a visible cross. The words (based on Genesis 3:19) used traditionally to accompany this gesture are, “Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.” (“Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”) This custom is credited to Pope Gregory I the Great (c. 540–604). In the 1969 revision of the Roman Rite, an alternative formula (based on Mark 1:15) was introduced and given first place “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” and the older formula was translated as “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The old formula, based on the words spoken to Adam and Eve after their sin, reminds worshippers of their sinfulness and mortality and thus, implicitly, of their need to repent in time.