The Meaning Behind Advent

Blessings to all during this Advent season, and we thank Director of Campus Ministry Mr. Peter Lyons for sending along this explanation of the meaning of Advent ... 

This past weekend the Church celebrated the First Sunday of Advent (Nov. 29). It’s also the beginning of the new Church year, also known as the liturgical year.

 Advent is a period of preparation for Christmas, when we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ-Child.  “Advent” means “coming.” The Gospels throughout Advent speak of being ready, taking on a tone of urgency as Christmas approaches. 

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and extends up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  The color purple (technically violet) is worn by the priest during Advent to signify royalty (Christ’s) and penance (ours). We prepare our hearts for the birth of the newborn King through acts of penance, such as prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and other sacrifices, ultimately preparing for Christ’s second coming. While we typically associate these things with Lent, they’re just as much a part of Advent. On Christmas, we exchange gifts as a way of celebrating God’s gift to us of his only Son, Jesus. This “spirit of giving” is rooted in God’s generosity. 

One of the most beautiful traditions in our Church is that of the Advent wreath. Originating in Germany and first made from evergreen branches (representing hope and newness of life) formed in a circle (representing God’s never-ending love and mercy), today’s Advent wreaths come in many shapes and sizes. They typically include four candles, three violet and one pink (technically rose).

Each day during Advent, special prayers are said and the appropriate candle or candles lit. During the first week of Advent, one violet candle is lit; during the second week, two violet candles; during the third week, the rose and two violet candles; and during the fourth week, all four candles. The rose candle reminds us that we are at the halfway point, symbolizing the joy to come.