The Third Sunday of Advent (Dec. 14) is also known as Gaudete Sunday, which is a reference to the proper Introit verse for the day, Gaudete in Domino semper (“Rejoice in the Lord always”) from Philippians 4. In the Roman rite, where purple is traditionally used for Advent and Lent, pink was a lightened hue of purple, symbolic of “lifting the veil” on the penitence and fasting to prepare for Christmas and Easter. Gaudete Sunday is a counterpart to Laetare Sunday, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, also called Mid-Lent or Refreshment Sunday. Though the Anglican rite calls for Sarum blue in Advent, the pink candle of the Advent wreath is retained.
The pink candle is also in keeping with joyous anticipation of the Lord’s coming, which is a central theme of today’s lectionary readings. John the Baptist is “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: make straight the way of the Lord.” While anthems are often verbatim settings of scripture, none are more iconic than the Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625) anthem “This is the record of John.” It is a classic example of the English verse anthem and was composed at the request of Gibbons’ friend William Laud (1573-1645), Archbishop of Canterbury and an alumnus and later president of St. John’s College, Oxford, where the anthem was first performed.