Dear DOCTIMUS PRIME,
It is the beginning of a new Liturgical Season, the beginning of a new Church calendar year. Happy New Year to you. I discovered that most Catholics have an intuitive understanding of Advent, based on experience, but not so many know what the Church’s official documents actually say about Advent? So I collect my ideas in 10 easy questions as follows:
1. What Is the Purpose of Advent?
Advent comes from the Latin word ‘Adventus’ meaning “coming.” Advent begins the church year, starting four Sundays before Christmas. The season of Advent has been set aside as a time of preparation for Christmas since at least the last half of the 6th century. Advent is a time for SELF-EXAMINATION and ASKING FOR FORGIVENESS as the church is preparing for Christ’s SECOND COMING even as it prepares for CHRISTMAS.
The other seasons are Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time.
2. Every Liturgical season has a colour. What Liturgical Colour(s) are used in Advent?
Particular days and certain types of celebrations can have their own colours (For example, RED for martyrs, black or white at funerals), but the normal colour for Advent is VIOLET OR PURPLE. The colour violet or purple is used in Advent and Lent. It may also be worn in Masses for the Dead.
Advent, as a season, lasts for four weeks. In many places, there is a notable exception for the Third Sunday of Advent, known as GAUDETE Sunday (“GAUDETE” MEANS “REJOICE”):
The colour ROSE may be used, where it is the practice, on Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and on Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent).
3. Is Advent a Penitential Season?
We often think of Advent as a penitential season because the liturgical color for Advent is VIOLET, like the colour of Lent which is a penitential season. However, in reality, Advent is not a penitential season.
According to the Code of Canon Law: Canon 1250, The penitential days and times in the Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.
Although local authorities can establish additional penitential days, this is a complete listing of the penitential days and times of the Latin Church as a whole, and Advent is not one of them.
4. When Does Advent Begin and End?
Advent begins with evening prayer I (Saturday Evening) of the Sunday falling on or closest to 30 November and ends before evening prayer I of Christmas. The Sunday on or closest to November 30 can range between November 27 and December 3, depending on the year. Advent ends on the evening of December 24th, which holds Evening Prayer I of Christmas (December 25th).
5. What Is the Role of Sundays in Advent?
There are four Sundays of Advent. We have already mentioned that the Third Sunday of Advent has a special name–Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for “Rejoice,” which is the first word of the entrance antiphon of the Mass for this day.
The Church ascribes particular importance to these Sundays, and they take precedence over other liturgical celebrations. What this means is that no other Church celebrations can take their place. They are that important.
6. What Happens on Weekdays in Advent?
It is especially recommended that homilies be given on the weekdays of Advent. On Sundays and Holydays of Obligation there is to be a Homily at every Mass that is celebrated with the people attending and it may not be omitted without a grave reason. On other days it is recommended, especially on the weekdays of Advent, Lent and Easter Time, as well as on other festive days and occasions when the people come to church in greater numbers.
The weekdays from 17 December to 24 December inclusive serve to prepare more directly for the Lord’s birth.
7. How Are Churches Decorated During Advent?
During Advent the floral decoration of the altar should be marked by a moderation suited to the character of this time of year, without expressing in anticipation the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord. During Lent it is forbidden for the altar to be decorated with flowers. Exceptions, however, are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts.
8. How Is Music Performed During Advent?
In Advent the use of the organ and other musical instruments should be marked by a moderation suited to the character of this time of year, without expressing in anticipation the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord. Exceptions, however, are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts.
9. Is the “Gloria” said or sung during Advent?
Neither. The Gloria or “Glory to God in the highest” is sung or said on Sundays outside Advent and Lent, and also on Solemnities and Feasts, and at particular celebrations of a more solemn character.
10. What Private Devotions Can We Use to Grow Closer to God During Advent?
There are a variety of private devotions that the Church has recognized for use during Advent. The most famous is the ADVENT WREATH. That is a topic for another time.
It is important that one knows these facts before hand so that they can follow the Season easily and prayerfully.