As history shows, Advent has been celebrated among Christians since around 500 CE. From the Latin adventus, meaning “coming” or “arrival,” Advent begins on the Sunday nearest November 30 (St. Andrew’s Day) and lasts until Christmas Eve, December 24. Advent Sunday, which marks the start of the liturgical year in the Roman Catholic Church, is the time Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25.
For many centuries, Advent was a strict observance marked by penitence and sacrifice. Gradually, it evolved into a more joyful time when Christ’s second coming is celebrated and preparations are made for his return.
During the Advent season (which can include four or five Sundays, depending on the belief), clergy typically wear royal purple or royal blue vestments, with many churches including an advent wreath in their services.
The wreath often consists of four candles (three purple and one rose) arranged in a circle of evergreen symbolizing eternal life, which are lit progressively: first Sunday, one purple candle; second Sunday, two purple candles; third Sunday, two purple candles and the rose candle; fourth Sunday, all four candles. The rose candle, also called the “Joy” candle, is said to signify the breaking of the Advent fast on the third Sunday in anticipation of the great event to come. Often, a fifth, a white candle (known as the Christ candle) is placed in the center of the circle to symbolize the Christ’s birth and is lit on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
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. During this time, the solemnization of matrimony (Nuptial Mass and Benediction) cannot take place, which prohibition binds to the feast of Epiphany inclusively. Flowers and relics of Saints are not to be placed on the altars during the Office and Masses except on the third Sunday, and the same prohibition exists regarding to the use of the church organ.
Among the many Christian Churches celebrating Advent 2011 in Tampa Bay, which begins tomorrow, November 27, is St. Raphael Catholic Church which you can visit or contact at:
1376 Snell Isle Blvd. NE, St. Petersburg, FL
Web Site: http://www.st-raphaels.com
For a list of other churches near you, visit: http://directory.tbo.com/FL-Tampa/Christian-Churches
For more information about Advent and the Advent season, visit: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01165a.htm