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The Season of Advent

The Season of Advent in the Catholic tradition:

The first Sunday in Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for Catholics as we await the birth of Jesus Christ.  However, it is not always clearly understood by the general public, since January 1 is the beginning of the calendar year.

The word “Advent” derives from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming.” Obviously, in this case, it refers to the coming birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas.

The  season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and is celebrated on each successive Sunday leading up to Christmas as we light successive candles on the advent wreath.

The Catholic Church has used advent wreaths since the Middle Ages. Lighting candles as we prepare for Christmas reminds us that Christ is the light of the world. And the evergreen boughs remind us of our new and eternal life in Christ, the eternal son of the Father.


The Advent Wreath:

You may have an Advent wreath at home; but if not, there will certainly be one in your church.  The Advent wreath consists of four candles, which are arranged in a circular pattern, and surrounded by evergreen branches. Each candle corresponds to the four respective Sundays through Advent.  Three of the candles will be purple or blue in color, and the other one will be pink.

On the first Sunday in Advent we light the first candle. This signifies hope as it is commonly known as the “Prophet’s candle” and signals that Jesus is coming.

On the second Sunday in Advent, a candle is lit to celebrate faith. This is based on the everlasting love of God, and it is also commonly referred to as the “Bethlehem” candle.  It is a reminder to everyone that Mary and Joseph undertook the journey to Bethlehem.

On the third Sunday of Advent (called Gaudete Sunday), it is traditional to celebrate Joy with the “Shepherds” candle.   It is a Sunday to remember Mary as the mother of Jesus.  On Gaudete Sunday, priests and bishops wear Rose or Pink Vestments.

On the fourth Sunday in Advent, the candle represents peace and is known as the “Angels” candle, from the simple message of “peace on earth and good will towards men.”

Here is a short video from The Catholic Company describing the Advent Wreath.

How do we celebrate Advent with our non-Catholic friends and co-workers?

There is a bit of conflict during Advent, since the secular world is busily hosting and attending Christmas parties (or “holiday parties” as the politically correct like to call them), while we, as Catholic Christians are told that this is a season for penance, acts of charity, and celebration of the sacraments.

So, it is difficult to know how to celebrate “the holiday season” and at the same time honor the traditions of Advent.

We know that, for many, Christmas is just a day, while to us, as Catholics, Christmas is a season.  On December 26, many of our neighbors will be taking down their decorations, placing their discarded Christmas trees out on the curb for the sanitation department to pick up, and preparing for New Year’s Eve celebration.

Meantime, Christmas carols are just beginning to be sung at Mass and 0ur trees remain up until the celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on the Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany (usually the second Sunday of January). Ordinary Time begins the day after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  A bit confusing, we know!

Advent may be a good opportunity, when asked the question “why do you still have your Christmas decorations up? to explain what the Christmas season really is to most Christians and especially Catholic Christians.

To be frank, we have sometimes left our tree up even after Epiphany…..sometimes it became a Valentines Day Tree!  Well, nobody says we HAVE to take it down on a certain day.