Advent is coming

This Sunday, 21st November, is the feast of Christ the King and the last Sunday before Advent begins. I thought that readers might find it interesting to prepare for this new liturgical season with a quiz about Advent. The answers can be found in the rest of this column and in “Liturgy Lines” columns over the next couple of weeks.

Advent Quiz

1. How long is Advent?

2. What is the liturgical colour for Advent?

3. What does the word “advent” mean?

4. Why does the Church celebrate the season of Advent?

5. Name a liturgical symbol often used in Advent.

6. What part of the Mass is omitted during Advent?

7. Name one figure who regularly appears in the scripture readings in Advent.

8. Name a second figure.

9. Apart from Advent itself, what begins on the first Sunday of Advent?

10. Should we start singing Christmas carols on the first Sunday of Advent? Explain your answer.

This year, Advent is almost as long as it can possibly be - 27 days. Advent is actually four Sundays, not four weeks as we sometimes think, so it can be anything from 23 days to 28 days depending on when Christmas Day falls.

The name for the season derived from a Latin word which means “a coming toward or near”. The “coming” that the Church focuses on at this time of year is much broader than Christ’s first coming as an infant in a manger. In Advent the Church's attention is on the three comings of Christ: in the past at his birth at Bethlehem, in the present, and at his Second Coming in the future.

There is certainly no need for any reminder that Advent has something to do with celebrating the Lord's nativity. We are given ample advance notice of the approach of Christmas through TV advertising, department store catalogues, Christmas carols playing everywhere, and decorations on houses and in shopping centres.

As the readings for the first three Sundays of the season clearly show, Advent is also about Christ’s second coming at the end of time. From the first Sunday until December 16 the focus of the liturgy is the watchfulness of God’s people looking forward to the time when “the salvation promised us will be ours when Christ our Lord will come again in his glory”. (Preface of Advent I)

In every season we remember that Christ also comes to us in the present - through the community gathered for the Eucharist and in the sacrament itself and through ordinary human experience.

During Advent, we offer thanks and praise for the saving actions of God in the past, we celebrate the presence of the risen Christ with us today and we “wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ’ in the future.

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Elizabeth Harrington