Saint Brigid Religious Education
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Holy Days

Advent ~ Sunday nearest November 30

In the Roman Catholic Church, the final Sunday of the liturgical year before Advent has been celebrated as the Feast of Christ the King since 1969.  The First Sunday of Advent is thus the first Sunday of the liturgical year.   It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). If Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent, with Christmas Eve proper beginning at sundown.

Historically, the primary sanctuary color of Advent is Purple. This is the color of penitence and fasting as well as the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King. Purple is still used in Catholic churches. The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week. This points to an important connection between Jesusí birth and death. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion. The purpose of Jesusí coming into the world, of the "Word made flesh" and dwelling among us, is to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesusí life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection. To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent and so shared the color of Lent.

In the four weeks of Advent the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing that the fasting was almost over (in some traditions it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for "rejoice"). The shift from the purple of the Season to pink or rose for the third Sunday Advent candles reflected this lessening emphasis on penitence as attention turned more to celebration of the season.

The theme of readings and teachings during Advent is often to prepare for the Second Coming while commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas. With the view of directing the thoughts of Christians to the first coming of Jesus Christ as Savior, and to his second coming as Judge, special lessons are prescribed for each of the four Sundays in Advent.

The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God.

In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power.

Many churches make use of Advent wreaths during this season, with one candle representing each of the four Sundays of Advent and it occupies a prominent position in the church. Many Christians put up Advent wreaths in their homes also. The Advent wreath has five candles, four around the wreath and one in the middle. The colors of these candles are tree purple or blue candles, one pink or rose candle, and one white candle. The circle of the wreath symbolizes God's eternity and endless mercy. The green in the wreath symbolizes the hop of renewal, newness, and eternal life that we have in God. The candles remind us that Jesus is the light of the world.

The candles are lit, one each Sunday, during the four Sundays of Advent. The first candle (purple) is known as the candle of Expectation of Hope (some churches call it the Prophesy candle). It represents the anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. The remaining three candles (Sundays) may follow one of the following progressions: Bethlehem (purple), Shepherds (rose), Angels (purple); Peace (purple), Joy (rose), Love (purple); or John the Baptist (purple), the Magi (rose), Mary (purple). Whatever sequence is used, the lighting of the candles is accompanied by Scripture readings, prayers, music, and worshipper participation.

The center, white, candle is called the Christ candle. It is usually lit on Christmas Eve or Day; but, since many churches don't have services on these days, they light it on the Sunday before Christmas.

Advent is a time for all people to remember that Jesus is the reason for the season.

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