The Third Sunday of Advent is marked by the pink candle and sometimes the matching pink or rose-colored vestments of the priest. These colors are meant to be reminders of the joy that can eventually come to those who enter this season. Advent, like Lent, has weeks marked with purple that not only reflect the hope of this season, but also the repentant nature and conversion that is called for in every heart. It takes time and patience ,as St. Paul writes today, for our hearts to be readied for the visitation of God and, after a few weeks of purple conversion, there is often the experience of this third week of joy. This pattern of conversion turning to joy is true for much of the spiritual life and not just within Lent or Advent.
Consider the experience of the conversion away from sin or slavish habits. It is not too long into this adventure with God and our putting to death the ways of sadness that we have an unexpected experience of the joyful freedom that God’s ways bring. This is an experience of the pink of the “third week” that is mirrored throughout our lives.
We could think of the choosing of forgiveness that is repeatedly necessary in this life. As St. Paul says, it takes time and patience for the fruit of God to emerge. Thus, again and again, choosing to give to God persons who have hurt us along the way of life slowly brings the experience of peace within our heart and the dying of our anger. This turning toward God and his grace helps us forgive just as he has forgiven us and we experience the symbolic pink of this third week.
In the area of prayer we are asked to be patient with the time that it takes for the soul to open up to the presence of God that is with it. We are asked to abide with him, for weeks and beyond, in the purple of prayer commitment. This commitment to time with God may not initially be marked with the feeling of his presence. Yet, if we remain with him through these initial stages, he surprises us with an encounter of his living reality.
The four Advent weeks teach us that the fruits of our walk with God come not on demand but as a gift. They sneak up on us in a way. The sacrifices that love calls for suddenly yield the joy of finding our true self. The choosing of the proclamation of truth can at first be hard and difficult but is then blessed with the joy of knowing integrity and courage. Even the offering of suffering to God in union with Christ for the redemption of others, which is so purple, can yield a union with God on the cross that brings a comfort within that the world cannot give. It remains true, however, that this purple offering of suffering can remain purple for a long time and sometimes the pink that it yields is only seen by God and from the vantage point of heaven.
Questions for Reflection
1. Where is God asking me to be patient in my spiritual life?
2. What are my more difficult offerings?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Bernard Parish, Green Bay.