The Fourth Sunday of Lent is nicknamed from the beginning of the first chant of Mass, the Introit: Laetare … Rejoice! It’s a glimpse of the destination of our march up Lent’s mountain, Easter. You may hear more music, see some flowers, and have rosacea (not, I hope, baby-rattle pink) vestments. That’s the beginning of Sunday’s Mass.
For a change, let’s leap lightly to Laetare’s end, the Post Communion, in the Novus Ordo:
Deus, qui illuminas omnem hominem venientem in hunc mundum, illumine, quaesumus, corda nostra gratiae tuae splendore, ut digna ac placita maiestati tuae cogitare semper, et te sincere diligere valeamus.
This prayer was in the 1962, traditional Missale Romanum, in the votive mass Ad repellendas malas cogitationes … For driving away bad thoughts. If you are going to rejoice, you don’t let bad thoughts beat you down.
ICEL translation: “God, who enlightens everyone who comes into this world, illuminate our hearts, we pray, with the splendour of your grace, that we may always ponder what is worthy and pleasing to your majesty and love you in all sincerity.”
Note the emphasis on “illumination”. On this Sunday we read the Gospel about the Lord healing the man who was born blind.
Cogito (made famous by Descartes) means, “to pursue something in the mind” and “to consider thoroughly, reflect upon, think”. Illumino is, predictably, “to light up, make light, illuminate; make conspicuous”.
It also means “to embellish or adorn” as in a medieval “illuminated manuscript”.
I have an image of a King (maiestas) who has come (at Communion) to the throne we prepared for Him in our minds (cogitare) and hearts (diligere). He arrived, humble in outward appearance but, in reality, seen with the eyes of love and contemplated deeply, nonetheless perceived as swathed in majestic glory (splendore).
This benevolent King, from sheer love, adorns (illuminare) the warrior knights kneeling before Him. He bequeaths to them His own shield, sword, and breastplate. He gives them an intellect and will that reflect His own puissance (cf Romans 13 and 1 Thessalonians 5:8). He places in His pilgrim warriors a new heart and breathes something of His own Spirit into them.
Before He sends His knights into the world, He strengthens them with his own Body and Precious Blood. Then, “Ite!” sounds in the hall, “Go!”. The knights go forth to resist, by blood, sweat and grace, the ancient Enemy, this world’s fell, demonic Prince.
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