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Advent history and ancient origins

Advent, in the Christian liturgy, is one of the liturgical times and is understood as the beginning of the liturgical year and includes the four Sundays of Advent that precede Christmas. The Advent history is late, identified between the 4th and 6th centuries. The first celebration of Christmas in Rome took place in 336 AD, and it was precisely towards the end of the fourth century that a period of preparation for the feast of Christmas was found in Gaul and Spain.

Only starting from the seventh, however, will we begin to speak of the season of Advent history in the four weeks about Christmas. This period will be called Time preceding the birth of the Lord. The first to set Advent Sundays for the Western Church in four feasts was Pope Gregory the Great. More specifically, the four Sundays of Advent symbolically represent the four thousand years during which men, according to the interpretation of the time, had to wait for the coming of the Savior after having committed the original sin. 

Advent meaning: What is the theological meaning?

The word Advent derives from the Latin Adventus, which means “coming,” even if, in the most widespread sense, it is used with the meaning of “waiting.”

On the theological level, Advent history marks the liturgical time of preparation for Christmas. The first coming of the Son of God is remembered among men. And at the same time, the time in which, through this remembrance, the spirit is guided to await the second coming of Christ at the end of time. The season of Advent, therefore, has a double characteristic.

Representation of historical Advent

advent history


Advent History

Beginning and Duration of Advent

The season of Advent, in the Roman rite of the Catholic Church, begins with the first vespers of the last Sunday of November and ends before the first vespers of Christmas. 

The Advent history is characterized by a double itinerary, Sunday and weekday, marked by the proclamation of the word of God. The readings of the Sunday Advent gospel refer to: 

The first readings, the Old Testament, are prophecies about the Messiah and are mainly taken from the book of Isaiah. The Apostle’s readings, those read on the second and third Sundays, mostly contain Exhortations and Announcements in harmony with the Advent season. 

On the other hand, regarding the weekdays during Advent, there is a twofold series of readings: one from the beginning of Advent until December 16 and the other from December 17 to 24. In the first part, we read the book of Isaiah according to the order of the book itself. From Thursday of the second week, after the 16th, the readings on the Gospel of John the Baptist begin. In this case, the first reading is the continuation of the book of Isaiah or another text chosen about the gospel. 

Finally, in the last week of Advent before Christmas, passages from the Gospel of Matthew (chapter one) and Luke (chapter one) are read.

Sundays of Advent

The traditional names of Advent Sundays are taken from the first words of the introit. In the first three weeks of Advent, they derive from Psalms 24/25, 79/80, 84/85, and the fourth from the book of Isaiah.

The Sundays of Advent in the Roman rite are called as follows: 

  • First Sunday of Advent: Ad Televi
  • Second Sunday of Advent: Populus Sion
  • Third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete 
  • Fourth Sunday of Advent: Rorate

In Advent history, the priest’s sacred parameters color is purple, except on the Sunday of the third week of Advent. When pink vestments can optionally be worn, this Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete because of the entrance antiphon of the Mass. Which contains a passage from the Letter to the Philippians in which Paul invites joy: “Rejoice always in the Lord: I repeat to you, rejoice, the Lord is Neighbor.” The penitential character of Advent is therefore diluted by the hope of the glorious coming of Christ.

Is the Ambrosian Advent different from the Roman rite Advent?

The Ambrosian Advent is very different from the Advent in the Roman rite. Advent lasts six weeks, not four, in the Ambrosian rite, as it does in the Roman rite. It starts on the first Sunday after St. Martin’s Day (11 November) and always includes 6 Sundays. When December 24 falls on a Sunday, the celebration of a pre-Christmas Sunday is still planned. Furthermore, the liturgical color morello is foreseen, except for the last Sunday, the Incarnation, in which white is used.

Finally, Sundays in the Ambrosian rite are divided as follows:

  • First Sunday of Advent – Sunday of the coming of the Lord
    Second Sunday of Advent – Sunday of the Sons of the Kingdom
    Third Sunday of Advent – Sunday of fulfilled prophecies
    Fourth Sunday of Advent – Sunday of the Messiah’s entry
    Fifth Sunday of Advent – Precursor Sunday (St. John the Baptist)
    Sixth Sunday of Advent – Sunday of the Incarnation

How to explain Advent to children?

The first thing to explain to the children to get them to understand the true meaning of Advent is that Advent is the period in which we must pray to honor the birth of Jesus. Subsequently, the four Sundays preceding Christmas could be explained by helping ourselves with the story of the gospel, perhaps even representing it with puppets or drawings. Every Sunday of Advent has a message, with stories from real life, and this is how we could simplify the gospel message for the children.

In addition, there are also many children’s books on Advent history. However, it could be even more effective to help with drawings and cartoons. It represents the most critical moments of the gospel.


In pre-Christian Rome, advent meant the coming, once a year, of the divinity to his temple. Later, it also took on the meaning of a visit from the emperor or his party.

Early in its history, Christianity adopted this term to designate the incarnation of Christ, Adventus Domini. Advent, as we know it today, was established quite late. The exact date is unknown, but many believe it can be dropped between the sixth and seventh centuries.

Over the centuries, two fundamental themes have developed. The first is the jubilant preparation for the feast of the nativity. The second is preparation for the new advent of Christ, in which he will judge the world. During Advent, marital relations and marriages were forbidden in the Middle Ages. This is to underline the penitential character of the feast concerning the theme of the coming of Christ. The symbol of Advent is a wreath and four candles lit once every Sunday.