Yesterday was, as is the case always on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Refreshment Sunday, also known as Rose Sunday, Laetare Sunday, or just lighten up a little Sunday. (Ok, that last one is not an official designation.) Laetare comes from the traditional introit (opening antiphon) of the day, which begins (in Latin) "Laetare, Jerusalem" (Rejoice, O Jerusalem). Rose Sunday is so called because rose-colored vestments may be worn this day (as is also true for Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent). "Lighten up a little" probably needs no explanation.
We are headed into the darkest part of the year, Holy Week, and since we are more than halfway through Lent, a little respite is in order to help us keep moving through this most penitential of seasons.
With St Patrick's Day just past and the first day of Spring arriving tomorrow, and temperatures in the 70's (at least) already, and everything blooming like crazy, it's hard NOT to lighten up.
But we're not there yet. There is a lot more to Lent, still.
What I like about this contrast - the somber liturgical season amidst the backdrop of the crazy-profuse exuberance of spring - is how much it is like real life. Our own need for self-examination, for exploration of areas we often neglect in our lives, our need for confession and repentance comes at the same time as this breathtakingly beautiful spring season full of cherry blossoms and red buds and crabapples and pears and forsythia and tulips and weeping willows leafing out. During the last few days I've enjoyed seeing bright yellow Carolina jessamine adorning dull fences and bridal wreath spirea shrubs arching delicately near flowering quince with its wicked thorns.
And this is how it works in real time, too. Death and tragedy come in the same week as birthday parties and weddings. Life and death, joy and sorrow, abundance and loss all sit next to one another in our lives. There are many threads that run through each of our lives, side by side. Pain, beauty, sorrow, joy, loss, accomplishment.
So, perhaps I'll stay lightened up for a few more hours and then, following Jesus' lead, turn my face toward Jerusalem again, with purpose and conviction.