Advent (Lat. adventus, sc. Redemptoris), signifies the coming of our Savior. The name is applied to the season (four weeks in the Roman, Lutheran, and English Churches, six weeks in the Greek Church) preceding Christmas. The origin of this festival as a Church ordinance is not clear. The first notice of it as such is found in the synod of Lerida (A.D. 524), at which marriages were interdicted from the beginning of Advent until Christmas. Caesarius of Aries (A.D. 542) has two sermons on Advent, fully implying its ecclesiastical celebration at that time. The four Sundays of Advent, as observed in the Romish Church and the Church of England, were probably introduced into the calendar by Gregory the Great. It was common from an early period to speak of the coming of Christ as fourfold: his "first coming in the flesh," his coming at the hour of death to receive his faithful followers (according to the expressions used by St. John), his coming at the fall of Jerusalem (Mt 24:30), and at the day of judgment. According to this fourfold view of the Advent, the "gospels" were chosen for the four Sundays, as was settled in the Western Church by the Homilarium of Charlemagne. The festival of Advent is intended to accord in spirit with the object celebrated. As mankind were once called upon to prepare themselves for the personal coming of Christ, so, according to the idea that the ecclesiastical year should represent the life of the founder of the Church, Christians are exhorted during this festival to look for a spiritual advent of Christ. The time of the year, when the shortening days are hastening toward the solstice — which almost coincides with the festival of the Nativity — is thought to harmonize with the strain of sentiment proper during Advent. In opposition, possibly, to heathen festivals, observed by ancient Romans and Germans, which took place at the same season, the Roman Church ordained that the four weeks of Advent should be kept as a time of penitence, according to the words of Christ, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." During these weeks, therefore, public amusements; marriage festivities, and dancing are prohibited, fasts are appointed, and sombre garments used in religious ceremonies. The Protestant Church in Germany abstains from public recreations and celebrations of marriage during Advent, but fasting is not enjoined. The Church of England and Protestant Episcopal Church observe Advent, but do not prescribe fasts. Advent begins on the first Sunday after November 26, i.e. the Sunday nearest St. Andrew's Day. In the sixth century, the Eastern and Western Churches (following the Nestorians) made Advent the beginning of the Church year instead of Easter. (See Bingham, Orig. Eccl. bk. 21, ch. 2, § 4; Procter, On Common Prayer, p. 268.) SEE CHRISTMAS.
On the general subject of the appropriateness of the time of Christ's advent, see the treatises, in Latin, of Austrin (Lond. 1835); Bock (Regiom. 1756, 1761); Faber (Kil. 1770, Jen. 1772); Hagen (Clausth. 1741); Quandt (Regiom. 1724); Ravius (Feft. 1673); Unger (Neap. 1779); Walch (Jen. 1738); Meyer (Kil. 1695); Scharbau (in his Obs. Sacr. 2, 395 sq.). On the state of the world at the time, Heilmann (Rint. 1755); Knapp (Hal. 1757). On the closing of the temple of Janus at his birth, Masson (Rotterd. 1700); and in German, Gedicke (in his Verm. Schrit, Berl. 1801, p. 188-200). SEE NATIVITY.