Advent: A Season of Penance and Joy

Advent: A season of Penance and Joy

“Advent, this powerful liturgical season that we are beginning, invites us to pause in silence to understand a presence. It is an invitation to understand that the individual events of the day are hints that God is giving us, signs of the attention he has for each one of us.”

~Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI~


Advent is a season of great anticipation. Children are anticipating gifts under their tree and adults are looking forward to family gatherings. Sadly, the season has become so commercial that expectations tend to become misplaced. As Catholic Christians, we understand that there is a far deeper meaning to this season; a meaning beyond setting up our Advent wreaths and Nativities. Do we really understand the season of Advent?


The Word Advent

The word, Advent, derives from the Latin word, adventus, which means “coming.” It is a season of preparation for the arrival of Jesus. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “The coming of God’s Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it over centuries. He makes everything converge on Christ: all the rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the “First Covenant.”

“An event of such immensity.” These words, alone, tell us of the importance of its suggested fasting and additional prayer as we await the coming of Christ.

The Catechism further teaches, “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 Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”


Advent ~ Lent

We tend to think of Advent as a joyous season but like Lent, it is a penitential season; a time of preparation which includes penance, fasting, and additional prayer. One of the ways we see the connection is in the color associated with the seasons. The color for both Advent and Lent is purple.  The shades of purple, however, are different. During Advent, blue-purple, known as twilight purple, is worn. The blue in this color is a reminder of Mary. Red-purple, or Roman purple, is the color worn during Lent. The red-tone is symbolic of the blood shed by Our Lord.  On the third Sunday during Advent, the color is rose which is symbolic of the joy we shall know when the Christ Child is born. This Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for rejoice.  The color, rose, is also worn on the fourth Sunday during Lent. This Sunday is known as Laetare Sunday.  Laetare means “Rejoice” in Latin.

Lent is a stricter season. The Church gives us no specific rules regarding fasting during Advent but encourages us to fast for the first two weeks and to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.


Scripture Readings

During Advent, readings are focused into four themes. I, personally, find Advent readings to be among the most beautiful of the Liturgical year. The themes for each week are:

1 ~Hope, 2 ~ Preparation or Waiting, 3 ~ Joy and Peace and 4 ~ Love.


Saint Alphonsus Liguori beautifully described the season when he wrote,

“If we would please this Divine Infant, we too must become children, simple and humble; we must carry to Him flowers of virtue, of meekness, of mortification, of charity; we must clasp him in the arms of our love.”

Wishing all a blessed Advent


Marilyn Nash for




Advent Wreath




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