Commentary by Dom Guéranger, O.S.B.
This Sunday, called, from the first word of the Introit, Lætare Sunday, is one of the most solemn of the year. The Church interrupts her Lenten mournfulness; the changes of the Mass speak of nothing but joy and consolation; the organ, which has been silent during the preceding three Sundays, now gives forth its melodious voice; the deacon resumes his dalmatic, and the subdeacon his tunic; and instead of purple, rose-coloured vestments are allowed to be used. These same rites were practiced in Advent, on the third Sunday, called Gaudete. The Church’s motive for introducing this expression of joy into today’s liturgy is to encourage her children to persevere fervently to the end of this holy season. The real mid-Lent was last Thursday, as we have already observed; but the Church, fearing lest the joy might lead to some infringement on the spirit of penance, has deferred her own notice of it to this Sunday, when she not only permits, but even bids, her children to rejoice!
The Station at Rome is in the basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem, one of the seven principal churches of the holy city. It was built in the fourth century, by the emperor Constantine, in one of his villas called Sessorius, on which account it goes also under the name of the Sessorian basilica. The emperor’s mother, St. Helen, enriched it with most precious relics, and wished to make it the Jerusalem of Rome. With this intention she ordered a great quantity of earth taken from Mount Calvary to be put on the site. Among the other relics of the instruments of the Passion which she gave to this church was the inscription which was fastened to the cross; it is still there, and is called the Title of the Cross. The name of Jerusalem, which has been given to this basilica, and which recalls to our minds the heavenly Jerusalem towards which we are tending, suggested the choice of it as today’s Station. Up to the fourteenth century, when Avignon became for a time the city of the Popes, the ceremony of the golden rose took place in this church; at present, it is blessed in the palace where the sovereign Pontiff happens to be residing at this season.
These men, whom Jesus has been feeding by a miracle of love and power, are resolved to make Him their King. They have no hesitation in proclaiming Him worthy to reign over them; for where can they find one worthier? What, then, shall we Christians do, who know the goodness and the power of Jesus incomparably better than these poor Jews? We must beseech Him to reign over us, from this day forward. We have just been reading in the Epistle, that it is He who has made us free, by delivering us from our enemies. O glorious liberty! But the only way to maintain it, is to live under His law. Jesus is not a tyrant, as are the world and the flesh; His rule is sweet and peaceful, and we are His children rather than His servants. In the court of such a King “to serve is to reign.’ What, then, have we to do with our old slavery? If some of its chains be still upon us, let us lose no time, let us break them, for the Pasch is near at hand; the great feast day begins to dawn. Onwards, then, courageously to the end of our journey! Jesus will refresh us; He will make us sit down as He did the men of the Gospel; and the Bread He has in store for us will make us forget all our past fatigues.
Psalm 134: 3,6
Praise ye the Lord, for He is good: sing ye to His Name, for He is sweet: whatsoever He pleased, He hath done in heaven and in earth.
SECRET - Look favorably upon these present Sacrifices, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that they may profit us both unto devotion and salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth . . .
PREFACE (Preface for Lent) - It it truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God; Who by this bodily fast, dost curb our vices, dost lift up our minds and bestow on us strength and rewards; through Christ our Lord. Through whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, the Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with these we entreat Thee that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted while we say with lowly praise:
Psalm 83: 4, 5
The sparrow hath found herself a house, and the turtle a nest, where she may lay her young ones: Thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God: blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, they shall praise Thee for ever and ever
POST COMMUNION - Look favorably upon these present Sacrifices, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that they may profit us both unto devotion and salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth . . .