The origins of tradition
Advent, from the Latin adventus, indicates the period of waiting for Christmas but, in its original meaning, the term suggests the coming of the Lord. In particular, it refers to the celebration of the first coming of Jesus among men and, at the same time, it is the time when, through this remembrance, the spirit is guided to the expectation of Christ’s return at the end of time.
The origin of Advent is dated between the 4th and 6th centuries, later than the birth of the Christmas tradition in 336. The configuration of Advent takes up the times and rituals typical of Lent and is regulated from 380, the year in which the Council of Saragossa imposed the continuous participation of the faithful in community meetings between 17 December and 6 January. These characteristics explain why this period was also called “St Martin’s Lent”, echoing the day on which the fast of Catholic Christians began, 11 November, the saint’s feast day.
Advent in the Ambrosian liturgy
Similarities with the Lenten period can be found in the duration, which is six weeks. This custom was also witnessed in Rome in the middle of the 6th century and is still preserved in the Ambrosian liturgy today. The Advent period therefore begins on the Sunday immediately following 1 November (feast of St Martin) and ends on Christmas Eve.
The Ambrosian Advent takes up in an organic way the structure witnessed in the oldest documents of the Milanese liturgy and sees the succession of certain themes that follow two parallel itineraries, distinguished according to the weekdays and Sundays on which masses are celebrated. The liturgical colour is morello or black, as a sign of austerity and sobriety, with the exception of the sixth Sunday of Advent when white, the festive colour par excellence, is used.
Pope Gregory the Great, reformer of the Advent period
The Advent season, as it is celebrated today by the Western Latin Church, lasts four weeks. This discrepancy is due to the liturgical reform ordered by Pope Gregory the Great, a great reformer of the Catholic Church, who changed both the customs and traditions of the liturgical calendar and the typical rituals of masses and celebrations, making them more solemn.
The Roman rite preserves the traditional four-week period starting with the first vespers on the evening of the first Sunday and ending on Christmas Eve. The Advent masses and hymns, however, refer to two periods: until 16 December the liturgy celebrates the future Advent of Christ in glory at the end of time and from 17 December the focus is on the Advent of Christ in the fullness of time, i.e. his Incarnation. The liturgical colour is purple, except on Sundays of the third week when pink vestments may be worn optionally.
Christian Christmas and pagan Christmas: origins and similarities
Traditions and characteristics listed so far testify how the birth of the Advent period is closely related to the celebration of Christmas and how the changes occurred over time are mainly due to political choices or ecclesiastical reorganisation. The origin of Christmas itself is to be attributed to a pagan cult, thus not linked to a real anniversary of Jesus’ birth. The feast, introduced in the middle of the 4th century A.D., takes up the pagan ritual of Solis Invictus, which revolved around the triumph of light over darkness and the birth of the god Aîon, generated by the virgin Koree.
The introduction of Christmas into the liturgical calendar was due to the need to create unity among the faithful and to bring different peoples and cultures closer to Christianity by using a common or at least similar archaic celebration.
The advent period in Castelsaraceno
Advent is nowadays a period lived with faith and dedication by practising Catholics and, especially in Italy, retains a certain relevance and importance. In addition to the purely religious aspect, the Advent season brings with it all the magic of waiting for Christmas. Castelsaraceno is preparing to celebrate the Holy Day by lighting up the village streets and the world’s longest Tibetan bridge , which will be illuminated for Christmas. The Advent period, lived with devotion inside the Mother Church, opens the doors to the event of Christmas in the village, which comes alive with the Christmas market, with exhibitions of cribs that populate the historic centre, the village of lights and other events giving serenity and joy to visitors. We will tell you more about this in the next article. Follow us!