Gaudete Sunday

In my own life experience, I was slow to recognize the gift of Gaudete Sunday (just as I’m slow in getting this post up a day late). The Third Sunday of Advent is given the name Gaudete, Latin for “rejoice.” On this day a pink or rose colored candle is lit on the Advent wreath instead of a purple one and the clergy wear purple vestments. This Sunday represents a shift in attitude from waiting for the Lord to recognizing that “God is with us,” Emmanuel. More on the history and practice of Gaudete Sunday can be found at Catholic Encyclopedia.

I first heard of Gaudete during my freshman year at the College of William & Mary. Due to bizarre sleep patterns I found myself atypically awake at dawn on a clear, sunny December morning. I went for a walk and came upon a poster for the Catholic Student Associations Gaudete Sunday Mass a 9 o’clock with caroling to follow. I was all set to put on a clean shirt and necktie and head to the church when I noticed that the event actually took place at 9 PM on Saturday night. In my long sleep and lethargy I had missed it. I had to wait a whole year to experience Gaudete CSA style.

The next year I ensured I’d be part of the Gaudete Mass by signing up to be lector. It was in fact the first time I was ever lector at any Mass. It didn’t help that I had a lifelong fear of public speaking. In the hours leading up to the Mass I was holed up anxiously reading and practicing proclaiming the verse I’d been assigned. One of my first tasks during the Mass was to carry a candle through the darkened parish center and light small candles for people throughout the congregation. I recall walking down an aisle lighting candles to my left and to my right, and then turning around to return down the aisle and being amazed by the blazing gauntlet before me (yes, I suffered from pyrophobia as well).

While it took me a while to settle in, the Gaudete Mass had some special touches. It began triumphantly with trumpets blasts of “O Come Emmanuel” and then a procession accompanied by “Prepare Ye, the Way of the Lord” from Godspell, first sung by one voice and growing to include the voices of everyone present. The candle-lighting followed, again with just one small flame growing to light the faces of all the students in the parish center. Some very symbolic and awe-inspiring moments. Gaudete Sunday grew to be one of my favorite events in college and remains so to this day.

Not related to the Catholic church but to my college experience is the Yule Log ceremony. This is a big event at the College of William & Mary although I didn’t participate until my Junior year. You’ll remember I was sleeping the first year and practicing my reading the next year. I made up for it by attending the Yule Log two more times after graduation. The ceremony involved songs, prayers, stories, a W&M-themed “Night Before Christmas” read by a college official and a dramatic reading of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by the President of the College, Tim Sullivan decked out in a Santa suit. Then a Yule Log would be carried through the gathering while students attempted to hit the log with a sprig of holly. Inside the Wren Building, students could throw their holly into a blazing fire, symbolic of unburdening their anxieties. Both events occurred on the same night, Yule Log followed by the Gaudete Mass, and provided for my friends and I a break from exams, a communal experience, and a spiritual renewal.

As I’ve grown older Gaudete in many ways has taken over the feelings of anticipation and joy I had for Christmas as a child. Typically I participate in activities such as the Christmas Revels and the Advent-Christmas concert at the Paulist Center on the weekend of Gaudete. For me it is a time of friends and family, singing joyfully, and reflection on the important things in life. It is a time to rejoice that God is with us.

Hello Susan!

Today I actually “go public” and share this link with another human being: my wife Susan. Of course, she’s been sneaky and reading it anyway, but I figured I’d make it official since I’ve been posting for two weeks.

Enjoy reading Susan, love your Gus.

In related news, Panorama of the Mountain has a record number of views today (39 at last count). If those aren’t all Susan, then welcome to lots of other people as well. I find the search terms that find this blog fascinating. The one that takes the cake is “pygmy christmas traditions”. Sad to say, I didn’t even know that Pygmies have Christmas traditions so sadly you’re not going to find much information on that topic here.

Urban Nutcracker

I lived many, many years without ever witnessing a performance of The Nutcracker ballet (although it’s possible I slept through a performance as a very young child). This deficiency was addressed last year when Susan I saw Boston Ballet perform The Nutcracker at the opulent Opera House. I suggested a repeat performance this year but Susan was more interested in seeing Urban Nutcracker instead although neither of us did anything like get tickets. Lucky for us the young adult group at the Paulist Center arranged an outing to see the matinée on Saturday, December 16th.

A problem with the houselights delayed the start of the performance, but it was worth the wait. The Prologue turned out to be my favorite part. Imagine a street scene — maybe somewhere in the Bronx — just before Christmas where people congregate on the sidewalks for an impromptu dance competition. Except that the sidewalks in the Bronx in December would be too icy for dance (well maybe not this year). There are groups of tap dancers and hip-hop dancers, a flamenco dancer and a break dancer, and even a doo-wop group. Each perform their steps with daring improvisation to wow everyone. The live audience reacted strongly to these dances with applause and cheering.

The rest of the performance is actually not all too different from the original Nutcracker and not particularly urban either. That is not to say it is not fresh and entertaining. Urban Nutcracker emphasizes diversity in cultures, music, and ages of the dancers. I think the prominence of children in the performance is one of it’s strong points and probably helps it appeal to the children in the audience. Apart from that changes are minimal. Drosselmeyer gets an assistant Mini-Meyer (that has to be an Austin Powers reference) who resembles the Celtics mascot Lucky and appears to have no bones in his legs.

I particularly enjoyed tap dancer Khalid Hill who you can tell is someone who enjoys working with children, and someone who children adore. He performed both in the Prologue and in the jazzy number “Orphans in a Shoe”. The children in bright blue with big yellow polka dots bouncing on big rubber balls created a visual spectacle I enjoyed, although Susan found them creepy. “Branchette and the Flowers” (their version of the “Waltz of the Flowers”) was just beautiful too.

I’m a pretty uncouth, uncultured guy, but I may just get into this ballet thing.

Search Engines

I’m adding a new link to my blogroll: Search Engine Land, which as the name implies reviews and evaluates search engines.

This post is a good a place as any to link the numerous search engines, directories and indices I learned about in Candy Schwartz’s course and had to evaluate. It will be good to have the links in one handy spot.
BUBL Information Service
Digital Librarian
Humbul Humanities Hub
Internet Public Library
Librarians’ Internet Index
Ask MetaFilter
Open Directory Project
WWW Virtual Library

Addendum: Librarian’s Ultimate Guide to Search Engines

More than I can ever read

I like lists of books. Lists of books I’ve read are ultimately the most satisfying, to look back at what I’ve read, learned, and experienced. Lists of books I plan to read are fun too, full of possibility, will they live up to their synopses, what will I learn. I’m ready to jump in and devour each book in the list. Lists like the New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year are the most heartbreaking. There’s no way I’ll read them all, and can you believe the have the nerve to link to several lists from previous years as well?

I’ve added half-a-dozen books to my personal “books to read” list. Sometimes I see the name of the book in my list and have no idea of where I heard of the book or why I put it on my list. So this nice linky from my blog should be helpful in those situations. At least for those six books.