The Fourth Sunday in Lent

Posted On: Saturday, March 13, 8:42 am

The Fourth Sunday in Lent is sometimes called Laetare Sunday, so called for the opening line of the Entrance Chant: Laetare Jerusalem (Rejoice, O Jerusalem) (Isaiah 66:10). Analogous to the Third Sunday in Advent (Gaudete Sunday), this Sunday has traditionally been treated as a relaxation from the usual rigors of Lent, as a celebration of hope, with Easter within sight. To mark this occasion, the Church allows flowers on the high altar, spirited organ music, and gives priests the option to wear rose colored vestments, breaking from the violet typically worn during Lent. Traditionally, the church has permitted weddings on this Sunday, which are forbidden during the rest of the Lenten season. The Fourth Sunday in Lent has also been called “Mothering Sunday” for the old tradition of releasing servants from work on this day to visit their mothers. 

Entrance Antiphon*: 

Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. 
Be joyful, all who were in mourning;
Exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast. 


An Antiphon is a short chant in Christian ritual, sung as a refrain. The texts of antiphons are usually the Psalms. They may be used during Mass, for the Introit, the Offertory or the Communion. They may also be used in the Liturgy of the Hours, typically for Lauds or Vespers. When used in Mass, the refrain is repeated, with short verses from Psalms in between. On Sunday mornings, listen for Antiphons sung before Mass, at the Preparation of the Gifts, and at Communion. 

What Wondrous Love Is This

What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

This hymn, although it was born out of Protestant traditions in the American south, feels right at home in Catholic worship. The tune of the hymn uses a mode* very frequently used in Gregorian Chant, the Dorian mode. This particular mode has a somber quality, but certain pitch combinations allow for optimism and brightness. This compliments the text of this hymn, which references both Christ bearing the “dreadful curse” or original sin for our souls, and also the joy that the author will feel when he or she has gone home to heaven (And when from death I’m free/I’ll sing on). The Dorian mode is a creation of sacred music, but has found its way into popular music as well. Some songs you might know that use this mode are Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles, So What by Miles Davis, and Scarborough Fair by Simon & Garfunkel. Dorian mode is also used for the Sequence sung before the Gospel reading on Pentecost Sunday, Veni Sancte Spiritus

Although the precise origins of this hymn and its text are up for debate, it is generally acknowledged that its first major publication was as a part of Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, a hymn book compiled by American Baptist song leader William Walker and first published in 1835. This collection originated many hymn tunes which are still sung today in congregations of all Christian denominations. A few that have found their way into modern Catholic hymnals include: Amazing Grace, My Shepherd Will Supply My Need, and Jerusalem My Happy Home. 


Mode: The set of pitches which give a melody its character and quality. If you’ve ever taken piano lessons, you might have learned about major and minor scales. There are seven basic modes, which are all variations of these two scales. Each mode has its own specific properties and evokes certain emotional atmospheres. Many composers of hymn tunes choose a mode for the hymn based on the emotional qualities of the text, so that the text and music fit together and compliment one another. 

By Scott Ewing