first season of the church year. The celebration of Advent in the Western
Church was instituted toward the close of the fifth century, in Gaul, Spain,
and Italy [but traces of it are found in the Council of Saragossa, 380].
The term was first understood as referring to the birth of Christ, and
so the Advent season was a time of preparation for Christmas. Since it
commenced at different periods (e.g., at Milan with the Sunday after St.
Martin [Nov. 11]; in Rome with the first in December), the number of Sundays
in Advent differed in the individual churches. The term adventus was
also taken in the wider sense of the coming of Christ in general; hence
the lessons for Advent which refer to the second coming of Christ and the
last judgment. With it was also connected the notion of the coming of the
kingdom of heaven. Thus originated the idea of the triple coming "to
man, in man, and against man" or, corresponding to the number four
of the Sundays which afterward became general, the notion of the quadruple
coming "in the flesh, in the mind, in death, in majesty."
In the medieval church the Advent season was a time of fasting and repentance.
Hence one finds in it the figure of John the Baptist, as the precursor
of Christ and the preacher of repentance. The whole season from Advent
to the octave of Epiphany was a tempus clausum (q.v.) until the
Council of Trent, which took off the last week. In the Church of Rome Advent
has still the character of a penitential season. The color of the vestments
then worn is violet. This character of earnest and serious devotion appears
in more preaching, teaching, and insistence upon attendance at communion.
Fasting during Advent is not a general ordinance of the Church of Rome
[being required only on all Fridays, the vigil of Christmas, and the three
ember-days in the last week of the season].
With the adoption of the medieval church calendar, the Protestants also
accepted the Advent season and Advent lessons. Thus the season retained
its double character, preparation for the Christmas festival and contemplation
of the different ways of the coming of Christ. Since it has become customary
to separate the civil and ecclesiastical chronology and to distinguish
between the civil and church years, the first Sunday of Advent has been
dignified as the solemn beginning of the new church year. These various
relations of the first Sunday of Advent and the whole Advent season explain
the variety of the contents of the Advent hymns and prayers. Among Protestants
also the Advent season has a twofold character, that of holy joy and of
holy repentance. The first Sunday in Advent is no church festival in a
full sense, but the relations referred to lift it and the succeeding Sundays
above ordinary Sundays. See CHURCH YEAR.
In the present usage of the West, the season begins on the nearest Sunday
to St. Andrew's day (Nov.30), whether before or after. In the Anglican
prayer-book the service for the first Sunday emphasizes the second coming;
that for the second, the Holy Scriptures; that for the third, the Christian
ministry; while only the fourth relates specifically to the first coming.
Advent in the Eastern Church begins on Nov.14, thus making a season of
forty days analogous to Lent.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The lectionaries in Liber comieus, i., Oxford,
1893, and in Sacramentarium Gelasianum published in L. A. Muratori,
Liturgia romanum vetus, vol. i., Venice, 1748, and in MPL, lxxiv.;
Smaragdus, in MPL, cii.; Amalarius Metensis, De ecclesiasticis
officiic, ib. cv.; Berno of Reichenau, De celebratione adventus,
MPL, cxlii.; Isidore of Seville, De officiis, ed. Cochlaeus,
Leipsic, 1534, and in M. de la Bigne, Magna bibliotheca veterum
patrum, x., Paris, 1654; E. Martène, De antiquis ecclesiae
ritibus, Rouen, 1700.