Sr Eleanor Campion ocso continues her series of reflections on the Entrance Antiphons for Mass on the Sundays of Lent
Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast. (cf. Is 66:10-11)
This text from the prophet Isaiah dates from a time near the end of the Exile in Babylon. The prophet sees that the seventy years of captivity will soon be over and the people will return to Jerusalem. The antiphon is sung with verses from psalm 121, a song of joy sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, which begins I rejoiced when I heard them say, ‘Let us go to God’s house’.
Joy is never absent from Lent, despite the season’s focus on two rather sombre themes – our repentance from sin, and the suffering undergone by our Lord in his passion. Sorrow for sin is part of our repentance, but the conversion experience does not end in sorrow: it leads to the deep joy of knowing God’s mercy and being restored to friendship with God. And while we contemplate the mystery of Christ’s deep suffering on the cross, Christians never lose sight of the whole paschal mystery: this suffering and death are part of the movement to resurrection and new life, which fills us with authentic joy.
One of the Prefaces of the Mass calls Lent a season when we await the sacred paschal feasts with the joy of minds made pure…(Preface of Lent, I). And St Benedict exhorts us to live the days of Lent looking forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing (RB 49). On this fourth Sunday of Lent, the entrance antiphon invites us to enter into joy and express it.
Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her! In Christian tradition, “Jerusalem” represents the Church. Here, using the metaphor of being satisfied at her consoling breast, the Church is depicted as a mother, feeding and nurturing her children.
Various groups of people are returning or “going up” to Jerusalem this Lent. There are the catechumens who will be baptised on Easter night, becoming members of the Church. We support them with our prayer and rejoice and are joyful that they are on this journey. Then there are those who are already baptised, but have sinned and slackened off. Some may have abandoned the Church and no longer participate in her life, others have just grown lukewarm in some areas. We are all somewhere on the spectrum. Lent is a time of returning and conversion, a time to receive afresh the embrace of Christ and of his Church, and to be fed from and rejoice in her spiritual and sacramental riches.
Jesus too is on a journey to Jerusalem, a fateful journey, which will lead to Calvary. But in doing this he fulfils the Father’s will and accomplishes what he was sent to do: to re-establish the bond between humanity and God, ruptured by our disobedience. The separation, the exile from God which resulted from our disobedience, is brought to an end by his obedience, death and resurrection, and our immersion into that mystery. This too fills us with joy.
Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.
Here is the Latin chant version of this antiphon:
You can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXhIPtK9ABc
(The Graduale Project)