Advent (from the Latin adventus: advent, arrival of the Messiah) is the period that covers a few weeks before Christmas, four in the tradition of the Latin Church. Since the introduction of this liturgical season, by analogy with Quadragesima Lent by Pope Gregory the Great, Advent is the time when we are preparing for the coming of Christ; at birth.
In the churches using the Gregorian calendar, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and marks the beginning of the liturgical year. Advent begins at the earliest on 27 November and, latest, the December, and ends on December 24. In Orientals and Mozarabes the Advent lasts 6 weeks and begins between 11 and 15 November.
In the Catholic Church and most Protestant churches, the liturgical color of this period is purple. However, some Episcopalians and Lutherans use blue, and some Byzantine use red or white.
Meaning and ceremonial
The time of Advent celebrates the triple coming of Christ; His birth in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, his coming into the heart of the men of all times and his glorious return at the end of time. From the beginning of the liturgical year, the threefold reference to past, present and future, which belongs to the structure of the liturgy, is made manifest.
Indeed, at Christmas, the faithful contemplate Christ born in Bethlehem as was announced by the Prophets of the Old Testament and await the fulfillment of God’s promise. This is to accommodate the presence of Christ to feed his word, waiting and hope of his return in glory. For Christians, the season of Advent is a time of conversion, expectation and hope.
The liturgy of Advent is based on the date of 17 December. The first weeks invite vigilance; Christians must be ready for the coming of Christ, which we do not know when it will come. From 17 December, the readings show the genealogy of the Annunciation and the birth of Christ. The paschal mystery gives meaning to Advent, which is hoped to push forward the Kingdom of God and the Last Judgment; Nativity symbolizing the Lord joining the men in their condition.
With the intention to concentrate Christians on the first and second coming of Jesus Christ as Savior, then as a Judge, extra lessons are taught the four Sundays of Advent. In addition, while the Church encourages sermons on themes of waiting and Hope, respectively symbolized by the watchman of Isaiah and the return of Christ in glory.
In the Catholic liturgical calendar, Advent consists of 4 weeks, each beginning with a Sunday:
- Advent Sunday (Levavi), as the 34th Sunday in ordinary time;
- Second Sunday of Advent (Populus Sion);
- Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)
- Fourth Sunday of Advent (Rorate).