What is Advent?
The word Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus. It means arrival, which is apt because we are entering the season when we anticipate the arrival of Christ. It is important to remember that we are not only celebrating the first time that Christ walked amongst us, but we are also anticipating His return.
Advent is the beginning of the Church's liturgical year. The year is split into seasons that each have a special focus, during which we remember different times in the story of God and God's people. The focus for Advent is preparation for Christmas. It is therefore symbolic of the history of creation up until Jesus' coming into the world. The Readings throughout Advent feature prophets like Isaiah and John the Baptist, who point the way to the coming of the Kingdom of God.
In church, you will see that the liturgical colour is violet, and a nativity scene will take up a prominent space. Four candles are placed near the altar, traditionally amongst a wreath of evergreens. All of this marks the special season we have entered as we wait for Him.
Each Sunday of Advent, one of the candles will be lit during Mass. The first candle is violet (or purple) in colour. It symbolises Hope. The next candle symbolises Peace. The third candle is rose pink, as are the vestments worn. This candle symbolises Joy and is lit on Gaudete Sunday when we collectively rejoice that the time is near. The last candle to be lit, this year on Christmas Eve, is violet and symbolises Love. The candles reflect the spiritual journey we make during Advent.
Creation was in a time of advent before Jesus, as they waited for the Messiah. We are also in a state of advent, and not just during this season. We are waiting for the completion of Jesus’ story with His return. However, we are not waiting for the End Times with a sense of doom and gloom. Instead, we wait within the joyful work of preparing our lives and world for God. The words of St. Paul carry this idea: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now". (Romans 8:22)
God's work of Creation isn't only something that happened billions of years ago. It is ongoing; the Kingdom is constantly unfolding and coming closer every day.
The Season of Advent is full of meaning, hope and joy. We will be reflecting upon the significance of many aspects of this special time in a series of blog posts in the weeks ahead. We pray that you enjoy them and share them with friends and family, so that we can spread the Good News as far and wide as possible.