Advent (from the Latin word _la. "adventus", meaning "coming") is a season of the Christian church, the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the
Nativity of Jesus, in other words, the period immediately before Christmas. It is the beginning of the Western Christian yearand commences on Advent Sunday. The Eastern Churchesbegin the liturgical yearon 1 September. [Citation
last =Kallistos (Ware)
author-link =Timothy Ware
contribution =The Five Cycles
title =The Festal Menaion
publisher =Faber and Faber
accessdate = ] The Eastern equivalent of Advent is called the
Nativity Fast, and differs both in length and observance (see that article for specifics).
The progression of Advent may be marked with an
Advent calendarreckoning Advent to start on 1 December, a practice introduced by German Lutherans. At least in the Roman Catholic calendar, Advent starts on the 4th Sunday before December 25; in other words, the Sunday between November 27 and December 3 inclusive.
Latin _la. "adventus" is the translation of the Greek word "
parousia", commonly used in reference to the Second Coming. Christians believe that the season of Advent serves a dual reminder of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrewsfor the birth of their Messiahas well as the waiting that Christians today endure as they await the second coming of Christ.
The theme of readings and teachings during Advent is often to prepare for the
Second Comingwhile 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 Saviour, and to his second coming as Judge, special lessons are prescribed for each of the four Sundays in Advent.
A darker purple (sometimes called "Royal Purple") is used whereas in Lent the color is often a reddish purple ("Roman Purple"). This shade is used for the hangings around the church, on the
vestmentsof the clergy, and usually the Tabernacle. On the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, rose pink is used, since this Sunday takes on a more joyous tone. In some Anglican and Lutheran churches, blue is the liturgical colour for Advent, a custom traced to the medieval Sarum Rite. This color is often referred to "Sarum blue." In the Eastern churches, red is used.
The "Late Advent Weekdays" or December 17-24, mark the singing of the Great Advent 'O Antiphons'. These are the antiphons for the
Magnificatat Vespers, or Evening Prayer (in the Roman Catholic Church) and Evensong(in the Anglican Church) 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 Fast," "St. Martin's Lent" 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 Anglicanand Lutheran churches this fasting rule was later relaxed, with the Roman Catholic Churchdoing likewise later, but still keeping Advent as a season of penitence. In addition to fasting, dancing and similar festivities were forbidden.
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
Jesusand the Blessed Virgin Mary. A halfpenny 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.
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 Romein 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 mangerat Bethlehemto pay homage to the infant Jesus.
End of the liturgical year
Anglican Church, the Sunday before Advent is called Stir-up Sunday. In the Roman Catholic Church, the final Sunday of the liturgical year before Advent has been set as the Feast of Christ the Kingsince 1969.
Fasting and abstinence in the Roman Catholic Church
*Mortification of the flesh in Christianity
* [http://www.cresourcei.org/cyadvent.html The Christian Season of Advent] at the Christian Resource Institute
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01165a.htm Catholic Encyclopedia: Advent]
* [http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Advent/default.asp American Catholic: Advent to Epiphany] Prayers, calendar and activities
* [http://www.liturgies.net/Advent/advent.htm Liturgical Resources for Advent]
* [http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=3903 Advent FAQ at the Missouri Synod Lutheran web site]
* [http://www.elca.org/worship/faq/worship_space/advent%20wreath.html Advent wreath FAQ] at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America web site
* [http://www.bibles.com/brcpages/Advent Advent Resources] at The Bible Resource Center, an online ministry of the American Bible Society
* [http://www.netglimse.com/holidays/advent/history_of_advent.shtml/ History of Advent]
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