Rejoice! We have made it to the third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday thanks to the opening words of the introit set for the day.
In our gospel reading at Mass we learn today about St John the Baptist, the one sent to prepare the way for the Messiah. Jesus says of him: 'Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist...'
John the Baptist is an important figure in the story of Christ. We learn of him also in the prologue of John's gospel: 'he was not the light but was sent to bear witness to the light.'
In the calendar of the church John is one of the few saints to have two different liturgical observances. We celebrate his birth on 24th June each year, but also commemorate his martyrdom on 29th August.
I've chosen a setting of the office hymn that we sing each year on 24th June, Ut queant laxis by Claudio Monteverdi, who sets the text for 2 sopranos and small orchestra.
For thy spirit, holy John, to chasten Lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen; So by thy children might thy deeds of wonder Meetly be chanted.
Lo! a swift herald, from the skies descending, Bears to thy father promise of thy greatness; How he shall name thee, what thy future story, Duly revealing.
Scarcely believing message so transcendent, Him for a season power of speech forsaketh, Till, at thy wondrous birth, again returneth Voice to the voiceless.
The heavenly citizens celebrate you with lauds, one God and at once triune; we also come imploring forgiveness; spare us among the redeemed. Thou, in thy mother's womb all darkly cradled, Knewest thy Monarch, biding in His chamber, Whence the two parents, through their children's merits, Mysteries uttered.
Praise to the Father, to the Son begotten, And to the Spirit, equal power. possessing, One God whose glory, through the lapse of ages, Ever resoundeth.