What is the Catholic Meaning of Advent?

clock December 1, 2012 14:14 by author John |

Advent - the AnnunciationWhat is Advent?

Advent is the liturgical season preceding Christmas, and the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year (in the West). It is the time that Christians use to prepare for the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ. The word Advent comes from the Latin word “Adventus” which means “coming”. We wait with joyful anticipation for Christmas, when Jesus was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.

As the words from the beautiful Christmas carol, ‘O Holy Night’ remind us, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining.” From the time of Adam, humanity waited for the savior to come to save us from the eternal separation from God that our sinfulness had warranted. Our only hope of salvation was the coming of Christ.

In the Old Testament, Jesus’ coming was foretold in the prophesies such as Isaiah 7:14:

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

The season of Advent is a time for Catholics to prepare themselves. This preparation is focused on becoming holier and worthy to celebrate Christ’s coming into the world on Christmas. It is also a time to prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming to us in the form of the Eucharist. Finally, it is a time to prepare for His Final Coming as the Just Judge both at our death and at the end of the world.

The History of Advent

The feast of the Nativity was established in the 4th century and the concept of preparation for the Birth of Christ gradually grew until the season of Advent was established near the end of the 6th century. The preparation was more penitential in the early centuries of the Church, showing similarities to Lent. Fasting and other acts of penance were prescribed for the faithful.  Between the 7th and 11th centuries, Advent was observed for 5 Sundays. In the end of the 11th century, Pope Gregory VII reduced the number of Sundays in Advent to 4.

Present Day Advent

We now continue the penitential theme, though it is accompanied by a prayerful and joyful anticipation of the birth of Christ and His second coming. Fasting and acts of penance are still valuable means of preparation, though we should also include prayers of joyful hope and gratitude for the gift of Christ’s Incarnation, life, and death. The late Pope John Paul II called Advent a time of intense training.

Traditional Advent Observances

In Churches and many Catholic homes, an Advent wreath is prominently displayed. It contains four candles, one is lit on each Sunday in Advent. Another popular custom is the Advent calendar, which counts down the days until the birth of Jesus. The most important Advent observance, however is participation in the sacraments of the Church in order to prepare our souls. Confession and the Eucharist are appropriate ways to prepare spiritually for Christ’s coming.

Have You Been To Confession Lately?

clock November 30, 2012 08:49 by author John |

Go to confessionHave you been to confession lately? Advent is quickly approaching. Are you ready for it? Why not enter the season of Advent with a clean slate and a spotless soul? Head over to confession this weekend. Most parishes offer confession on Saturdays and some even on Fridays.

Here is some material for you to read up on if you are unfamiliar with confession or you have been away for a while.

How To Make a Good Catholic Confession

A Thorough Catholic Examination of Conscience

What is Mortal Sin (The Catholic Definition)

What is Venial Sin (The Catholic Definition)

The Act of Contrition

Top 10 Emotional Reasons People Don't Go to Confession (and Why You Should Consider it Anyway)