Episco-Fact #71
December 3, 2017

What are the outward signs that mark Advent in our worship services, (i.e. liturgical colors, elimination of alleluias, etc.)

Advent was for a while a mini-Lent within the Church. In Anglo-Saxon, England during the 7th, 8th, and 9th Centuries, Christians, peasant and noble, were compelled to fast before the Feast of the Nativity, the celebration of which began on December 25, and not before, under penalty of penance. Over time, the penitential nature of the season was transformed into expectation, as we hold it today.

Signs that we are in this season of expectation are the use of an Advent purple (a lighter shade than for Lent, though we use the same color purple), or, with the promotions of C.M. Almy and other liturgical suppliers, Sarum Blue (a color in the seasonal palate of Salisbury Cathedral in England, although that color was not designated for the season of Advent).

There are Advent wreaths, although there is no provision for any ceremonial around the lighting of the candles in the BCP for use in the service. Some parishes have ceremonials for the lighting, though I think the visual of the wreath alone is quite striking. The colors of the candles for the Advent wreaths can be all white, purple, or blue [a pink candle can be part of the array for the third Sunday of Advent, otherwise known as Gaudete Sunday (so designated from the Latin word for Rejoice which is part of the introit of the mass for the day)]. Our candles are purple for the Sunday's of 1, 2, and 4 Advent, and pink for 3 Advent.

Other signs are that the Gloria is stored away until Christmas services beginning on the evening of December 24 and replaced by the "Lord have mercy," or the Trisagion. But regular responses remain for the Opening Sentences and the Dismissal. A blessing with an Advent message, which is sourced from the Book of Occasional Services, will be part of the conclusion of the liturgy.

One of the joys of the season is the Advent Carols, which will be featured weekly, and which I have never heard at the mall during retailing season in the run-up to Christmas. They will also be featured at our Service of Advent Lessons and Carols at 4:00 PM today.

Finally, for this Episco-fact, though not for all facts about Advent, there are the readings, rich with in detail and allusions to God's work through the prophets, heavenly messengers, and faithful children of Israel. Other details may pop-up, like the use of the Prayer of Humble Access in Rite at the 8:00 AM service, or the switch to Eucharistic Prayer B, a prayer which Emphasizes incarnation, at the 10:00 AM service, and the service music that was introduced in the Lent/Easter season last year. All these signs prepare the way for the coming celebrations.


The Rev. David Lucey