Advent and Christmas

Advent, which comes from the Latin word for “arrival” or “coming,” in Greek, it is translated from parousia, commonly used in reference to the Second Coming of the Messiah. It is a season of preparation, to prepare the way of the Lord. is a period of preparation for the birth of our Lord for His coming as our King and Saviour. The Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and is the start of the Christmas season, which lasts through the Baptism of Our Lord.

The Church teaches us that Advent is a time of joyous anticipation, but also of penance and preparation for the great Christmas feast:

When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating [John the Baptist’s] birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Catechism of Catholic Church no. 524)

Fasting and other forms of penance, such as prayer and almsgiving, help to purify our hearts and prepare us for the celebration of Christmas (cf. Catechism of Catholic Church no. 1434).

The Church celebrates Christmas from Christmas Day until the Solemnity of the Epiphany, which commemorates the manifestation of Christ as the Saviour of the whole world (cf. Matthew 2:1-12).

The Advent wreath, which has German origins, is probably the most recognized Advent custom. It symbolizes the many years from Adam to Christ in which the world awaited its Redeemer; it also represents the years that we have awaited His second and final coming. The wreath holds four equally spaced candles, the three purple ones lit on the “penitential” Sundays and a pink one for Gaudete, the joyful third Sunday in Advent. Like Lent, Advent is a penitential season,  But on Gaudete Sunday, having passed the midpoint of Advent, the Church lightens the mood a little, the change in colour provides us with encouragement to continue our spiritual preparation – especially prayer and fasting – for Christmas.

The season of Christmas runs from Evening Prayer I of Christmas until the Sunday after Epiphany or after 6 January, inclusive.

The Mass of the vigil of Christmas is used in the evening of 24 December, either before or after Evening Prayer I. On Christmas itself, following an ancient tradition of Rome, three Masses may be celebrated: namely, the Mass at Midnight, the Mass at Dawn, and the Mass during the Day. Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship, General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, n. 32-34″

The Christmas season is a time for giving thanks for the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Christmas celebrates the Incarnation, God becoming human, like us in all things except sin.

The Octave of Christmas begins on Christmas Day and extends until the solemnity of Mary Mother of God on 1 January.

There are some major feasts during the octave:

  • 26 December is the feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr;
  • 27 December is the feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist;
  • 28 December is the feast of the Holy Innocents;
  • Sunday within the octave is the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary,and Joseph.  This is celebrated on 30 December if there is no Sunday in the octave.

The season of Christmas extends from the vigil on Christmas Eve to the Monday after the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. In Singapore the Epiphany is celebrated on the Sunday closest to 6 January, and the Baptism of the Lord on the Sunday after the Epiphany.

The Epiphany commemorates the visit of the three wise men to Jesus, and symbolises his recognition by all nations and peoples as foretold in the scriptures. It is the end point of the traditional ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’.

The liturgical colour of the Christmas season is white, which symbolises light and the joyfulness of the season.