Duration and Ritual
On every day of Advent the Office and Mass of the Sunday or Feria must be said, or at least a Commemoration must be made of them, no matter what grade of feast occurs.
In the Divine Office the Te Deum, the joyful hymn of praise and thanksgiving, is omitted; in the Mass the Gloria in excelsis is not said.
The Alleluia, however, is retained.
During this time the solemnization of matrimony (Nuptial Mass and Benediction) cannot take place; which prohibition binds to the feast of Epiphany inclusively.
The celebrant and sacred ministers use violet vestments.
The deacon and subdeacon at Mass, in place of the dalmatics commonly used, wear folded chasubles.
The subdeacon removes his during the reading of the Epistle, and the deacon exchanges his for another, or for a wider stole, worn over the left shoulder during the time between the singing of the Gospel and the Communion.
An exception is made for the third Sunday (Gaudete Sunday), on which the vestments may be rose-coloured, or richer violet ones; the sacred ministers may on this Sunday wear dalmatics, which may also be used on the Vigil of the Nativity, even if it be the fourth Sunday of Advent. Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) states that black was the colour to be used during Advent, but violet had already come into use for this season at the end of the thirteenth century.
Binterim says that there was also a law that pictures should be covered during Advent.
Flowers and relics of saints are not to be placed on the altars during the Office and Masses of this time, except on the third Sunday; and the same prohibition and exception exist in regard to
the use of the organ.
The popular idea that the four weeks of Advent symbolize the four thousand years of darkness in which the world was enveloped before the coming of Christ finds no confirmation in the Liturgy.
It cannot be determined with any degree of certainty when the celebration of Advent was first introduced into the Church.
The preparation for the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord was not held before the feast itself existed, and of this we find no evidence before the end of the fourth century, when, according to Duchesne [Christian Worship (London, 1904), 260], it was celebrated throughout the whole Church, by some on 25 December, by others on 6 January.
Of such a preparation we read in the Acts of a synod held at Saragossa in 380, whose fourth canon prescribes that from the seventeenth of December to the feast of the Epiphany no one should be permitted to absent himself from church.
We have two homilies of Saint Maximus, Bishop of Turin (415-466), entitled "In adventu Domini," but he makes no reference to a special time.
The title may be the addition of a copyist.
There are some homilies extant, most likely of Saint Caesarius, Bishop of Arles (502-542), in which we find mention of a preparation before the birthday of Christ; still, to judge from the context, no general law on the matter seems then to have been in existence.
A synod held (581) at Mâcon, in Gaul, by its ninth canon, orders that from the eleventh of November to the Nativity the Sacrifice be offered according to the Lenten rite on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the week.
The Gelasian Sacramentary notes five Sundays for the season; these five were reduced to four by Pope Saint Gregory VII (1073-85).
The collection of homilies of Saint Gregory the Great (590-604) begins with a sermon for the second Sunday of Advent.
In 650 Advent was celebrated in Spain with five Sundays.
Several synods had made laws about fasting to be observed during this time, some beginning with the eleventh of November, others the fifteenth, and others as early as the autumnal equinox.
Other synods forbade the celebration of matrimony.
In the Greek Church we find no documents for the observance of Advent earlier than the eighth century.
Saint Theodore the Studite (d. 826), who speaks of the feasts and fasts commonly celebrated by the Greeks, makes no mention of this season.
In the eighth century we find it observed not as a liturgical celebration, but as a time of fast and abstinence, from 15 November to the Nativity, which, according to Goar, was later reduced to seven days.
But a council of the Ruthenians (1720) ordered the fast according to the old rule from the fifteenth of November.
This is the rule with at least some of the Greeks.
Similarly, the Ambrosian and the Mozarabic rites have no special liturgy for Advent, but only the fast.
Transcribed by Carl H. Horst
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I
Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company
Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight
Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
Reprinted by permission of copyright owner.
See New Advent Catholic Website
See also CNP Music for Advent (Year B)