Advent comes from the Latin word "adventus" which means "coming" or "arrival." In Western churches, Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas, or the Sunday closest to November 30. Advent lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24.
Advent is a season of spiritual preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ. The Advent season is both a time of celebration and penance. Christians celebrate Advent not only as a way of remembering Christ's first coming as a human baby, but also for his continued presence with us today through the Holy Spirit, and in anticipation of his final return.
The liturgical color during this period is purple. This is when the Catholic Church changes the cycle of readings used in Mass.
Typically, the Advent wreath holds three purple candles and one pink or rose-colored candle. In the center of the wreath sits a white candle. As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the world.
One candle is lit on each Sunday during Advent, but on the third Sunday the candle is rose-colored to remind people to rejoice in the Lord. This third Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday, as Gaudete comes from the Latin word for "rejoice." The change from purple as the liturgical color to rose represents the change from being a season of repentance to celebration.
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