It is officially the most wonderful time of the year: Christmas. Most everywhere you go, buildings are adorned with holiday decorations and the feelings of festivity are high in the air. During this season, people partake in holiday activities with happiness! To members of the Catholic church, these feelings of joy and celebration are celebrated through traditions partaken in during the season of Advent.
The Discipleship Ministry states that the first ever recorded evidence of Advent was found during the fourth century in Spain where it was observed to be the season of fasting and baptism. People were traditionally baptized on January sixth which, at the time, was said to be the birth date of Jesus Christ. The first seen practices of Advent were in the mid fifth-century in Ravenna, Italy. Pope Gregory I created a timeline of Advent with four Sundays leading to Christmas. However, the Pope intended the season to focus more on the incarnation of Christ taking on a human nature rather than the second coming of Christ.
Advent nowadays is a season of preparation as well as celebration. As known in many Christian religions, Christmas is the day that Jesus Christ was born from the Virgin Mary. Preparing for His birth on Christmas is the main focus during this season as church members get time to reflect upon the celebration and overall meaning. As well as the preparation for Christ’s birth, people celebrate the future coming of Christ to earth which is a large part of many Christian faiths.
According to the Catholic Apostolate Center, Advent begins on the Sunday closest to Saint Andrew’s feast date. The season lasts for four Sundays, with traditionally a candle being lit on each Sunday in during church services. The first Sunday has a strong focus on the second coming of Christ and the first purple candle is lit during mass. The second and third Sunday revolve around John the Baptist focusing more on his role as a prophet and as a forerunner to Jesus Christ as he paved the way for Christ’s second coming. After these two Sundays, the last two purple candles are lit at each mass. On the last Sunday before Christmas, the rose-colored candle is lit and the focus of the homily, also known as a sermon, is on the story of Christmas. This last Sunday is a joyous occasion with Christmas Day arriving.
On Christmas Day, mass is held celebrating the birth of Christ. Some masses are held exactly at midnight, and from personal experience, those are some of the most beautiful masses. St. Anne’s holds Latin masses, with the whole of the mass except for the homily being said in Latin. At midnight, St. Anne’s holds a high solemn mass which radiates the holiness of the occasion. Inside it is adorned with decorations such as candles and Christmas trees. And though one may be tired from Christmas Eve’s events, it is difficult not to appreciate the beauty and solemnity seen and felt. The choir sings traditional Christmas hymns celebrating the joyous occasion and those attending mass are more than welcome to sing with them.
Advent is a beautiful season for people all over the world, as it brings hope of the coming of Christ one day. Hope and happiness thrive during this season as people take time to prepare for Christmas and understand the true meaning of what the season means regarding their beliefs. And as Pope Benedict XVI once said, “It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.”