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The Season of Advent

Advent has a twofold character: as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered; as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation.

General Norms of the Liturgical Year and the Calendar 39

The Scripture of Advent

Throughout the liturgical year, but above all during the seasons of Easter, Lent, and Advent, the choice and sequence of readings are aimed at giving the faithful an ever-deepening perception of the faith they profess and of the history of salvation.

Lectionary for Mass: Introduction 60

The best instance of harmony between the Old and New Testament readings occurs when it is one that Scripture itself suggests. This is the case when the teaching and events recounted in texts of the New Testament bear a more or less explicit relationship to the teaching and events of the Old Testament. The present Order of Readings selects Old Testament texts mainly because of their correlation with New Testament texts read in the same Mass, and particularly with the gospel text.

Harmony of another kind exists between texts of the readings for each Mass during Advent, Lent, and Easter, the seasons that have a distinctive importance or character.

Lectionary for Mass: Introduction 67

The cycle for the weekdays of Advent, the Christmas season, and the Easter season is also yearly and the readings thus remain the same each year.

Lectionary for Mass: Introduction 69

Tradition assigns the reading of Isaiah, especially the first part, to Advent.

Lectionary for Mass: Introduction 74


Each gospel reading has a distinctive theme: the Lord’s coming at the end of time (First Sunday of Advent), John the Baptist (Second and Third Sunday), and the events that prepared immediately for the Lord’s birth (Fourth Sunday).

The Old Testament readings are prophecies about the Messiah and the Messianic age, especially from Isaiah.

The readings from an apostle serve as exhortations and as proclamations, in keeping with the different themes of Advent.


There are two series of readings: one to be used from the beginning of Advent until 16 December; the other from 17 to 24 December.

In the first part of Advent there are readings from Isaiah, distributed in accord with the sequence of the book itself and including salient texts that are also read on the Sundays. For the choice of the weekday gospel the first reading has been taken into consideration.

On Thursday of the second week the readings of the gospel about John the Baptist begin. The first reading is either a continuation of Isaiah or a text chosen in view of the gospel.

In the last week before Christmas the events that immediately prepared for the Lord’s birth are presented from Matthew (Chapter 1) and Luke (Chapter 1). The texts in the first reading, chosen in view of the gospel reading, are from different Old Testament books and include important Messianic prophecies.

Lectionary for Mass: Introduction 93-94

Art and Environment of Advent

Violet or purple is used in Advent and Lent… Rose may be used, where it is the practice, on Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent)…

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 346

During Advent the floral decoration of the altar should be marked by a moderation suited to the character of this season, without expressing prematurely the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 305

The use of the Advent Wreath is a traditional practice which has found its place in the Church as well as in the home. The blessing of an Advent Wreath takes place on the First Sunday of Advent or on the evening before the First Sunday of Advent. The blessing may be celebrated during Mass, a celebration of the word of God, or Evening Prayer.

Customarily the Advent Wreath is constructed of a circle of evergreen branches into which are inserted four candles. According to tradition, three of the candles are violet and the fourth is rose. However, four violet or white candles may also be used.

The candles represent the four weeks of Advent and the number of candles lighted each week corresponds to the number of the current week of Advent. The rose candle is lighted on the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday.

If the Advent Wreath is to be used in church, it should be of sufficient size to be visible to the congregation. It may be suspended from the ceiling or placed on a stand. If it is placed in the presbyterium, it should not interfere with the celebration of the liturgy, nor should it obscure the altar, lectern, or chair.

When the Advent Wreath is used in church, on the Second and succeeding Sundays of Advent the candles are lighted either before Mass begins or immediately before the opening prayer; no additional rites or prayers are used.

The Advent Wreath may be blessed by a priest, deacon, or a lay minister.

Book of Blessings 1509-1513, 1516

Music During Advent

In Advent the organ and other musical instruments should be used with a moderation that is consistent with the season’s character and does not anticipate the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 313

It [the Gloria] is sung or said on Sundays outside the Seasons of Advent and Lent, on Solemnities and Feasts, and at special celebrations of a more solemn character.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 53, emphasis added

Liturgy of the Word for Children

Depending on the capacity of the children, the word of God should have a greater place in these celebrations. In fact, as the children’s spiritual capacity develops, celebrations of the word of God in the strict sense should be held frequently, especially during Advent and Lent. These will help greatly to develop in the children an appreciation of the word of God.

Directory for Masses With Children 14

Celebrating Mass During Advent

It [the Gloria] is sung or said on Sundays outside the Seasons of Advent and Lent, on Solemnities and Feasts, and at special celebrations of a more solemn character.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 53, emphasis added

There is to be a Homily on Sundays and holy days of obligation at all Masses that are celebrated with the participation of a congregation; it may not be omitted without a serious reason. It is recommended on other days, especially on the weekdays of Advent…

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 66

A homily is strongly recommended on the weekdays of Advent, Lent, and the Easter season for the sake of the faithful who regularly take part in the celebration of Mass; also on other feasts and occasions when a large congregation is present.

Lectionary for Mass: Introduction 25

Advent and the Liturgical Calendar

Advent begins with Evening Prayer I of the Sunday falling on or closest to 30 November and ends before Evening Prayer I of Christmas.

The Sundays of this season are named the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Sundays of Advent.

The weekdays from 17 December to 24 December inclusive serve to prepare more directly for the Lord’s birth.

General Norms of the Liturgical Year and the Calendar 39-41

Because of its special importance, the Sunday celebration gives way only to solemnities or feasts of the Lord. The Sundays of the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Easter, however, take precedence over all solemnities and feasts of the Lord. Solemnities occurring on these Sundays are observed on the Saturdays preceding.

General Norms of the Liturgical Year and the Calendar 5

The weekdays of Advent from 17 December to 24 December inclusive and all the weekdays of Lent have precedence over obligatory memorials.

General Norms of the Liturgical Year and the Calendar 16

On Sundays, on the weekdays during the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, on Feasts, and on obligatory Memorials:

a. If Mass is celebrated with a congregation, the priest should follow the calendar of the Church where he is celebrating;

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 354

On the weekdays of Advent from December 17 to December 24, on days within the Octave of Christmas, and on the weekdays of Lent, except Ash Wednesday and during Holy Week, the Mass texts for the current liturgical day are used; but the Collect may be taken from a Memorial which happens to be listed in the General Calendar for that day…

On the weekdays of Advent before December 17… one of the following may be chosen: either the weekday Mass, or the Mass of the Saint, or the Mass of one of the Saints whose Memorial is observed, or the Mass of any Saint listed in the Martyrology for that day.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 355

Ritual Masses are connected to the celebration of certain Sacraments or sacramentals. They are prohibited on Sundays of Advent,

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 372

In cases of serious need or pastoral advantage, at the direction of the diocesan Bishop or with his permission, an appropriate Mass may be celebrated on any day except Solemnities, the Sundays of Advent…

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 374

On obligatory Memorials, on the weekdays of Advent up to and including December 16… Masses for Various Needs, Masses for Various Circumstances, and Votive Masses are as such forbidden. If, however, required by some real need or pastoral advantage, according to the judgment of the rector of the church or the priest celebrant himself, a Mass corresponding to such a need or advantage may be used in a celebration with a congregation.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 376

Among the Masses for the Dead, the Funeral Mass holds first place. It may be celebrated on any day except for… the Sundays of Advent… with due regard also for all the other requirements of the norm of the law.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 380