Gaudete Sunday (/ɡaʊˈdeɪteɪ/ gow-day-tay) is the third Sunday of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western Church, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, many Lutheran Churches, and other mainline Protestant churches. It can fall on any date from 11 December to 17 December.
The incipit for the Gregorian chant introit from which Gaudete Sunday gets its name.
The day takes its common name from the Latin word Gaudete ("Rejoice"), the first word of the introit of this day's Mass:
“Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione et obsecratione cum gratiarum actione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob.”
This may be translated as: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob." Philippians 4:4–6; Psalm 85 (84):1
The season of Advent originated as a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas, commencing on the day after the feast of St. Martin (11 November), whence it was often called "St. Martin's Lent"—a name by which it was known as early as the fifth century. In the ninth century, the duration of Advent was reduced to four weeks, and Advent preserved most of the characteristics of a penitential season which made it a kind of counterpart to Lent. Gaudete Sunday is a counterpart to Laetare Sunday, and provides a similar break about midway through a season which is otherwise of a penitential character, and signifies the nearness of the Lord's coming.
The spirit of the Liturgy all through Advent is one of expectation and preparation for the feast of Christmas as well as for the second coming of Christ, and the penitential exercises suitable to that spirit are thus on Gaudete Sunday suspended, as were, for a while in order to symbolize that joy and gladness in the promised Redemption.