The word Advent derives from the Latin word meaning coming. The Lord is coming. We may reflect that every year at this time we celebrate his coming , so that in a sense we can lose the feeling of expectancy and joyful anticipation, because at the end of the season, everything seems to return to pretty much the same routine. If that is the case, then our preparation may have been lacking and we have therefore been robbed of much of the true meaning of this season.
During Advent we recall the history of God's people and reflect on how the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament were fulfilled. This gives us a background for the present. Today we can reflect on the past track record of God and so begin to understand what it means to us now for the sake of what is to come, in our own future and that of our world.
© Liguori Publications Excerpt from Advent - A Quality Storecupboard The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer
Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is ananglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming." It is the beginning of the Western liturgical year and commences on Advent Sunday. The Eastern churches'equivalent of Advent is called the Nativity Fast, but it differs both in length and observances and does not begin the church year, which starts instead on September 1. At least in theRoman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Moravian, Presbyterianand Methodist calendars, Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25, which is the Sunday from November 27 toDecember 3 inclusive.
Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used in reference to the Second Coming of Christ. For Christians, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives. The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.
The theme of readings and teachings during Advent is often to prepare for the Second Coming while commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas. With the view of directing the thoughts of Christians to the first coming of Jesus Christ as savior and to his second coming as judge, special readings are prescribed for each of the four Sundays in Advent.
The usual liturgical colour in Western Christianity for Advent is either purple or blue. The purple color is often used forhangings around the church, on the vestments of the clergy, and often also the tabernacle.
On the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, rose may be used instead, referencing the rose used on Laetare Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Lent.
In some Christian denominations, blue, a colour representing hopefulness, is an alternative liturgical colour for Advent, a custom traced to the usage of the Church of Sweden (Lutheran) and the medievalSarum Rite in England. In addition, the colour blue is also used in the Mozarabic Rite (Catholic and Anglican), which dates to the eighth century. This colour is often referred to as "Sarum blue". TheLutheran Book of Worship lists blue as the preferred colour for Advent while the Methodist Book of Worship identifies purple or blue as being appropriate for Advent. There has been an increasing trend to supplant purple with blue during Advent as it is a hopeful season of preparation that anticipates both Bethlehem and the consummation of history in the second coming of Jesus Christ. Proponents of this new liturgical trend argue that purple is traditionally associated with solemnity and somberness, which is fitting to the repentant character of Lent.
During the Nativity Fast, red is used among the denominations of Eastern Christianity, although gold is an alternative color.
In Advent, the Advent Prose, an antiphonal plainsong, may be sung. The "Late Advent Weekdays",December 17–24, mark the singing of the Great Advent 'O antiphons'. These are the antiphons for theMagnificat at Vespers, or Evening Prayer (in the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches) and Evensongin Anglican churches each day and mark the forthcoming birth of the Messiah. They form the basis for each verse of the popular Advent hymn, "O come, O come, Emmanuel".
From the 4th century the season was kept as a period of fasting as strict as that of Lent (commencing in some localities on 11 November; this being the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, the fast became known as "St. Martin's Lent", "St. Martin's Fast" or the "forty days of St. Martin"). The feast day was in many countries a time of frolic and heavy eating, since the 40-day fast began the next day. In the Anglican and Lutheran churches this fasting rule was later relaxed, with the Roman Catholic Church doing likewise later, but still keeping Advent as a season of penitence. In addition to fasting, dancing and similar festivities were forbidden in these traditions. The third Sunday in Advent was a Rose Sunday, when the color of the vestments was changed and a relaxation of the fast was permitted. The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches still hold the tradition of fasting for 40 days before the Nativity Feast.
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church [Ed. F.L.Cross, 2nd ed., O.U.P., 1974] states regarding Advent: "The first clear references to the season in the Western Church come from the latter half of the 6th century. In the Gelasian Sacramentary Advent Collects, Epistles, and Gospels are provided for the five Sundays preceding Christmas and for the corresponding Wednesdays and Fridays." (p. 19).
In many countries Advent was long marked by diverse popular observances, some of which still survive. In England, especially in the northern counties, there was a custom (now extinct) for poor women to carry around the "Advent images", two dolls dressed to represent Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary. A halfpenny coin was expected from every one to whom these were exhibited and bad luck was thought to menace the household not visited by the doll-bearers before Christmas Eveat the latest.
In Normandy, farmers employed children under twelve to run through the fields and orchards armed with torches, setting fire to bundles of straw, and thus it is believed driving out such vermin as are likely to damage the crops. In Italy, among other Advent celebrations, is the entry into Rome in the last days of Advent of the Calabrian pifferari, or bagpipe players, who play before the shrines of Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Italian tradition being that the shepherds played these pipes when they came to the manger at Bethlehem to pay homage to the infant Jesus.
In recent times the most common observance of Advent outside church circles has been the keeping of an advent calendar or advent candle, with one door being opened in the calendar, or one section of the candle being burned, on each day in December leading up to Christmas Eve. The keeping of an advent wreath is also a common practice, with four or five candles extending from the wreath. The colours associated with the candles are variously interpreted.
End of the liturgical year
In Anglican churches the Sunday before Advent is sometimes nicknamed Stir-up Sunday after the opening lines of theBook of Common Prayer collect for that day. In the Roman Catholic Church since 1969, and in most Anglican churches since at least 2000, the final Sunday of the liturgical year before Advent has been celebrated as the Feast of Christ the King. This feast is now also widely observed in many Protestant churches, sometimes as the Reign of Christ. In consequence, the collect for the first Sunday of Advent in the Episcopal Church USA is no longer "stir up". Since the 1979 revision of the Book of Common Prayer that collect is read on the third Sunday of the season.
- Taken from Catholic Online.