What is Advent?

Dear Maggie,
What is Advent?              
Waiting and Wondering

Dear Waiting and Wondering,

Thank ye for yer fine question!  Advent, to put it simply, is a time when we remember Christ’s parousia and prepare for it.  Okay, maybe it’s not so simple after all!  Parousia is the Greek word for “coming” and adventus is the Latin translation of the same word.  The season of Advent is then the season of coming—a time when we prepare to remember Christ’s first coming in the Feast of the Nativity (otherwise known as Christmas) and also prepare for Christ’s second coming.

Traditionally Advent was a season of fasting and penance, and it can still have some of that tone.  Like a pregnant mother we look forward to Christ’s arrival with joyful expectation, but we also realize all the ways our lives aren’t prepared for what’s coming.  We need to make our lives and households places that can readily welcome the coming Christ just as a family prepares to welcome a child.  Many of us will find in this process that we need to reorient our priorities and that is what the practice of fasting and penance is all about.  Some may also find that this is a season in which they want to engage in the practice of confessing their sins to a priest or reconciling with a loved one.  All of these acts are means by which we get ready for the joyful transformation Christ is bringing into the world. 

Christians across the world have many advent traditions, such as the lighting of candles on an Advent wreath.  The best of these traditions point us outward toward the world God seeks to heal.  In the North of England poor women would walk about with dolls of the Virgin Mary and Jesus during the season of Advent.  People would give them money, remembering that Jesus and Mary were poor people in need of help and harbor.  Jesus told us that we can find him in the poor, the hungry, the sick and those in prison so we should go to these people and places if we want to really get ready to meet Jesus as he comes back to put the world right.

I hope that helps answer your question! 

May ye have a blessed Advent,