"Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. Psalm: I rejoiced when they said to me: 'we shall go into the House of the Lord!'"
Thus reads the traditional introit (opening musical part of the service) in the Roman Rite. It gives the name Laetare (rejoice) to the the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Also called Mid-Lent Sunday, the day marks a lessening of the rigors of Lent for one Sunday as we begin to more actively anticipate Easter. It's also called Rose Sunday from the custom of switching from the Lenten purple to rose-colored vestments—a custom observed in some high church Episcopal parishes as well as in many Roman Catholic ones. (The third Sunday in Advent is also a Rose Sunday with the introit’s first word being Gaudete, which is similarly translated from the Latin as “rejoice.” There can be rose vestments on this Sunday, as well as a rose candle on the Advent Wreath.)
We do not have rose-colored vestments at Emmanuel, so we stick with the purple. Whether or not there is rose candle on the Advent Wreath is up to the liturgical sensibilities (or whim) of the rector. Since we do not have the rose vestments, I chose last Advent not to have a rose candle.
Lessening the rigors of Lent is a more important topic than the color of the vestments. Perhaps it's just me, but I do not think much any more about the rigors of Lent. It is, of course, a season of repentance and preparation for Easter, but all seasons should be ones of repentance as we turn from self-seeking, sinful ways to the self-giving, compassionate ways of Christ. Each Sunday is a recollection of Easter as we celebrate the presence of the risen Christ in our midst.
The older habit of giving up things for Lent such as chocolate or alcohol or meat on Fridays has served people well as it helped to focus Lent for them. The newer habit of taking on good works in Lent also helps to prepare for Easter and becomes a pattern for year-round living. Neither giving up nor taking on as practiced now involves much rigor, but rather we fit it into our busy lives. This is not a lamentation but rather a recognition of the way things are.
Rejoicing should always be a part of who we are. Even in the midst of personal or communal troubles, of sins of omission or commission, we can rejoice that Christ is risen and is present with us. Easter is always in sight. That is at the heart of our identity.