The Season of Advent

December 1, 2017

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Prophet Isaiah

The Prophet Isaiah St. Mary of the Presentation
Breckenridge, MN

The Word “Advent.” The term “Advent” comes from the Latin preposition ad, “to” or “toward,” and the verb, venire, “to come”; as well as the Latin word adventus which means “arrival” or “coming.” Advent is the season that celebrates the coming of Jesus, begins the new liturgical year, and prepares for the Solemnity of Christmas.

Advent’s Duration. The Season of Advent is made up of the four Sundays before Christmas, three full weeks, and a fourth week of variable length.

Advent’s Main Points of Emphasis. The major focus of Advent is the two comings of Christ, past and future. The Church looks backward with great joy, deep reverence, and profound gratitude, to commemorate and honor the first coming of Christ, the Nativity, the birth of Jesus, Messiah and Lord, the word made flesh, in Bethlehem. At the same time, the Church looks forward to the Second Coming of Christ, the Parousia, at the end of the age, the day when he comes again, with an admonition to be fully prepared, in the state of grace, free of all sin, full of hope, without anxiety, ready to welcome Christ when he comes in glory and majesty, and to be in a spiritual condition to be judged worthy of heaven.

Another Advent Point of Emphasis. While the Church looks to the past and the future, it also pays attention to the present. Christ will come on Christmas, and Christ comes each and every day, in the Gospel and the Eucharist, in the sacraments, in private prayer, in the Church gathered in liturgical worship, in song, in love, in truth, in our neighbors, and in many other ways; and it behooves us to be ready to receive Christ now and whenever he comes.

The Shifting Themes of Advent. In Years A, B, and C, the First Sunday of Advent highlights the Second Coming of Christ and the need for vigilance; the Second and Third Sundays of Advent concentrate on the ministry of Saint John the Baptist and the importance of conversion and repentance; and the Fourth Sunday of Advent is immediate preparation for Christmas with the annunciation to Joseph, the annunciation to Mary, and the Visitation, all passages from either Matthew’s or Luke’s Infancy Narratives.

Advent’s Color. The liturgical color for Advent is violet or purple, the color of repentance and sorrow for sin. If we wish to be ready for Jesus when he comes, we must “prepare the way of the Lord” (Lk 3:4), fill in the valleys of our shortcomings and bad habits, tear down the mountains of our offenses, make straight our crooked ways, and make smooth our roughness, meanness, and lack of charity (see Is 40:3-4 and Lk 3:5). While there are no days of fast and abstinence during this penitential season, it is highly recommended to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Advent.

Important Elements of Advent. The symbol of the Advent season is the Advent Wreath comprised of four candles, three which are violet or purple, one which is rose, and represents the increasing light of Christ, the light of the world, born at midnight, during the time of the approaching winter solstice and the shortest and darkest day of the year. The saint of Advent is St. John the Baptist, the intertestamental prophet who bridged the Old and New Testaments, the one who sang of his coming, proclaimed his presence when he came, and challenged the people of his time and people of our day to open their hearts to receive Christ. The prophet of Advent is Isaiah, the author of the Immanuel Prophecies (Is 7:10-14; 9:1-6, especially vv, 5-6; and 11:1-10), quoted with seven Scripture passages used for the Sundays of Advent, seventeen for the weekdays of Advent, and every day for the Office of Readings.

About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

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