Advent, a season of waiting and preparation

Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; 

From our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee. 

Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a king, 

born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. 

-         Chris Tomlin

The Roman Catholic Church year, begins with the season of Advent. It is also called as the Christian year or the liturgical year. The Roman Catholic Church year, sets out to attune the life of Christians to the life of Jesus. ‘Adventus’ from Latin means, ‘coming’. The season of Advent starts four weeks before Christmas. Advent is so closely related to Christmas, it can scarcely be understood apart from that feast. 

Originally, the term Advent was applied to the feast itself. Gradually, it came to designate the time before Christmas. One of the prayers for the second Sunday of Advent, proclaims the central theme of the Advent season: 

“Stir us up O Lord to make ready for your only-begotten Son. May we be able to serve you with purity of soul through the coming of Him. Who lives and reigns…” 

Here the word ‘coming’ refers to the feast of Christmas. On the feast of Epiphany, the proclamation, “Behold the Lord has come…” is made. Advent, then, is first of all the comprehensive name for the incarnation (God becoming human) and all that the incarnation accomplishes. 

Waiting is difficult. Advent is about waiting. Waiting is part of our life, whether waiting in traffic, or waiting for the results of a competitive exam. Life is all about waiting. Think for a moment about the meaningfulness of some of your own experiences of waiting. What have you waited for? What has been worth the wait? Some of our most vivid memories of the soulful nature of waiting may come from our childhood. Childhood is full of these “not yet” promises. There is a real joy when the waiting ends and what we waited for becomes a reality. 

How to understand the season of Advent in our times? 

The season of Advent, invites us to repentance. Therefore, the colour purple is used to symbolize the meaning of the season. Jesus came to save sinners (Matthew 1:21) and those who know him are saved by his grace. Often, we see the story of the shepherds, angels and wise men as something nice, but not really relevant to our daily struggle. Advent reminds us that we required a savior to free us from our sins. God’s plan of redemption includes what we experience day after day. 

Advent is also a call to hope. Jesus is not only a baby in the manger. He is also the 'King of Glory' and we are waiting for his return. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord (Philippians 2:10). The deliverance we long for will one day fully come, and all that plagues God’s people will pass away. 

Advent Wreaths

The Advent wreath is an important symbolic practice that is followed today. The Advent wreath is a circular garland of evergreen branches representing eternity. In this wreath, four candles are inserted, representing the four weeks of advent. Ideally, three candles are purple and one is rose, but white candles are also used. 

The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken during this season. 

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 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. 

In the Bible, the spirit of Advent is expressed well in the parable of the bridesmaids who are anxiously awaiting the coming of the bridegroom (Matt 25:1-13). There is profound joy at the bridegroom’s expected coming. And yet, a warning of the need for preparation echoes through the parable. But even then, the prayer of Advent is: 

Come, O Come, Emmanuel, 

And ransom captive Israel!

Br Anush P. D’Cunha SJ
Br Anush P. D’Cunha SJ is studying Theology at Jnanajyothi, Karnataka Regional Theological Extension Center, Bengaluru.
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Comment on this article

  • L.J.Fernandes, venur

    Tue, Dec 10 2019

    Thank you Br Anush for the informative write up.

  • Donald Rodrigues, Borivali West. Mumbai

    Sat, Dec 07 2019

    Very timely and inspiring article in this grace filled season of Advent Thank you Br. Anush

  • Michael DSouza, USA

    Thu, Dec 05 2019

    This Short and sweet article helps us prepare well for Christmas.
    Thank you Br.

  • John M, Italy

    Thu, Dec 05 2019

    Advent also invites us to fill others with hope.
    May this season continue to help us to prepare to welcome our Saviour.

  • Ina Carmelita D'Souza, Mangalore

    Thu, Dec 05 2019

    The three model persons for the Advent season who prepare us through to Christmas are
    Prophet Isaiah for the first week
    John the Baptist the second week
    Mary mother of jesus in the third week

    How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

  • Dan M, Dubai / Mangalore

    Tue, Dec 03 2019

    God The Father on the real meaning of Christmas, a deeper sense of joy and how to attain it.

    Message to Maureen

    November 30, 2019
    Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle

    Once again, I (Maureen) see a Great Flame that I have come to know as the Heart of God the Father. He says: "Today, I wish to speak to you about gift-giving. In and of itself this is not bad and, if practiced in a self-giving way, can be a great grace. The season of Christmas becomes convoluted only when materialism becomes the focus instead of the Birth of My Son. This is where the mass media plays a role. Consumerism is lauded by the media as the source of all joy and happiness, especially during the holiday season."

    "If the soul loses sight of the real meaning of Christmas, his joy will be short-lived and superficial at best. I am calling you to a deeper sense of joy - a joy which brings peace of heart. This is a joy which comes to you in proportion to the faith you hold in your heart. The ones who hold true faith in their hearts and believe wholeheartedly that My Son was born in the stable in Bethlehem have the greatest gift of all. No material goods of the world can bring greater joy."

    "Gift-giving in a material sense can be an expression of human love - one for the other. This is good and acceptable in My Eyes. However, do not allow it to be the full focus of your heart as you celebrate the Feast of Christmas."

    "Prepare your hearts with charitable works for the less fortunate. This takes the focus off self and allows you to focus on the real meaning of Christmas. Then, the Birth of My Son will have a place in your hearts."

    Read Luke 2:6-7+

    And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

    * The ecumenical Mission of Holy and Divine Love at Maranatha Spring and Shrine.

  • Sonal, Bangalore

    Tue, Dec 03 2019

    Very informative article. Thank you for a wonderful article brother.

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