FIRST PART OF THE LITURGICAL YEAR: THE CHRISTMAS CYCLE (MYSTERY OF THE INCARNATION).[i]
I. SEASON OF ADVENT (from the first Sunday of Advent to December 24).
"The liturgical texts used during the four weeks of the season of Advent remind the faithful of the ‘absence of Christ.’ The Collects of Advent do not end with, ‘through our Lord Jesus Christ,’ as during the rest of the year. In a spirit of penance and prayer we await the Mediator, the God-Man, preparing for His coming in the flesh, and also for His second coming as our Judge. The Masses for Advent strike a note of preparation and repentance mingled with joy and hope; hence, although the penitential purple is worn and the Gloria is omitted, the joyous Alleluia is retained. The readings from the Old Testament contained in the Introit, Gradual, offertory, and Communion of the Masses, taken mostly from the prophecies of Isaias and from the Psalms, give eloquent expression to the longing of all nations for a Redeemer. We are impressed by repeated and urgent appeals to the Messias: ‘Come, delay no longer.’ The Lessons from St. Paul urge us to dispose ourselves fittingly for His coming. The Gospels describe the terrors of the last Judgment, the Second Coming, and tell of the preaching of St. John the Baptist ‘to prepare the way of the Lord.’
In Advent, the Greek Church celebrates particularly the ancestors of Our Lord – all the Patriarchs and Prophets of the Old Testament, but especially Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Latin Church also mentions them often in this period. In the Breviary, many texts are taken from Isaias (Introit of the second Sunday, Communion of the Third Sunday).
The idea of Advent is ‘Prepare you for the coming of Christ.’ Therefore the very appeals of the Patriarchs and the Prophets are put in our mouths in Advent. Prepare for the coming of Christ the Redeemer, who comes to prepare us for His Second Coming as Judge.
When the oracles of the Prophets were fulfilled and the Jews awaited the Messias, John the Baptist left the desert and came to the vicinity of the Jordan, bringing a baptism of penance to prepare the souls for the coming of Christ. The world took him to be the Messias, but he replied with the words of Isaias: ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: prepare ye the way of the Lord.’
During Advent we make straight for Christ the way to our souls – and behold, our Lord will come at Christmas.”
[i] Remarks are abstracted from The Daily Missal and Liturgical Manual, from Editio Typica of the Roman Missal and Breviary, 1962
(Baronius Press Limited, London, 2004, in conjunction with the Fraternal Society of St. Peter, www.baroniuspress.com)