"Advent, this powerful liturgical season that we are beginning, invites us to pause in silence to understand a presence. It is an invitation to understand that the individual events of the day are hints that God is giving us, signs of the attention he has for each one of us."
Pope Benedict VXI, Homily at First Vespers of Advent, November 28, 2009
Beginning the Church's liturgical year, Advent (from, "ad-venire" in Latin or "to come to") is the season encompassing the four Sundays (and weekdays) leading up to the celebration of Christmas.
The Advent season is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas. The final days of Advent, from December 17 to December 24, focus particularly on our preparation for the celebrations of the Nativity of our Lord (Christmas).
Traditionally, Advent wreaths are constructed of a circle of evergreen branches into which four candles are inserted, representing the four weeks of Advent. Ideally, three candles are purple and one is rose, but white candles can also be used.
The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas.
The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of his second coming to judge the living and the dead.
Useful websites for the Advent / Christmas season
A short two-minute presentation on Advent produced by Busted Halo which describes why we celebrate Advent and wait to celebrate Christmas.
Advent also provides us with a chance to open an Advent Calendar each day – another reminder of how we can joyfully anticipate Christmas day and grow in our faith along the way. Here are two Advent calendars produced by CAFOD and Loyola Press (especially for children). Click here for the CAFOD calendar and click here for the Children’s one from Loyola Press.
Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Christ Child, but in the midst of the pre-Christmas frenzy, it's easy to lose sight of the profound spiritual importance of the Advent season. One of your greatest temptation during Advent will be scrimping on your spiritual needs because there are so many other things going on. Don’t. The definitive guide to Advent and Christmas from Our Sunday Visitor will help you and your family. Click here.
In preparation for Advent try to create space for a few minutes of silence. Give this space for God to speak to you. For those who would like to make a retreat but cannot get away, click here. This is a website produced by the Jesuits of Irish province to help you in your preparations.
Little presentation on the O Antiphons from the Cistercian (Trappist) monastery in Dubuque, Iowa, please click here
Finally, spend some time with Holy Scripture, the Word of God. The Advent readings are wonderful and uplifting. In particular, have a look at the following passages:
May God bless you this Advent season as we prepare well for the coming of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.