The fourth Sunday in Lent (Mid-Lent) derives its Latin name from the first word of the Mass text, "Laetare Jerusalem" (Rejoice, O Jerusalem). It is a day of joy within the mourning season. The altars may be decorated with flowers, organ playing is permitted, and the priests may wear rose-colored vestments instead of purple. The reason for such display of joy is explained in a sermon by Pope Innocent III (1216):"On this Sunday, which marks the middle of Lent, a measure of consoling
relaxation is provided, so that the faithful may not break down under the severe strain of Lenten fast but may continue to bear the restrictions with a refreshed and easier heart."
As a symbol of this joy the popes used to carry a golden rose in their right hand when returning from the celebration of Mass. Pope Leo IX (1051) calls this custom an "ancient institution." Originally it was a single rose of natural size, but since the fifteenth century it has consisted of a cluster or branch of roses wrought of pure gold and set with precious stones in brilliant workmanship by famous artists. The popes bless it every year, and often they confer it upon churches, shrines, cities, or distinguished persons as a token of esteem and paternal affection. In case of such a bestowal, a new rose is made during the subsequent year. The meaning and symbolism of the golden rose is expressed in the prayer of blessing. It represents Christ in the shining splendor of His majesty, the "flower sprung from the root of Jesse." From this ecclesiastical custom Laetare Sunday acquired its German name, Rosensonntag (Sunday of the Rose).
In this country Laetare Sunday receives much publicity in the papers because of Notre Dame's bestowal each year (since 1883) of the Laetare Medal on an American lay Catholic distinguished in literature, art, science, philanthropy, sociology, or other field of achievement. It is an adaptation of the papal custom of the golden rose, and the medal is made of heavy gold and black enamel tracings bearing the inscription "Magna est veritas et praevalebit" (Truth is mighty and shall prevail). It is suspended from a bar on which is lettered "Laetare Medal."
Since I had to go to 6:30 am Mass today (and was glad to hear another great sermon by Fr. Perrone which I will try to get for the blog), I have no fresh pics of Laetare Sunday. Those shown here are from 2008. If you would like to see more, click the link below:
- More Photos from Laetare Sunday 2008 at Assumption Grotto
Te Deum Laudamus! Home