The liturgical season of preparation for Christmas (i.e., advent of Christ into the world). It thus marks the start of the Christian Year,* and serves also to complete the cycle by drawing attention to Christ's “second coming to judge the world.” Historically this season followed the development of the parallel one of preparation for Easter, known as Lent. Accordingly Advent grew in the East, and in parts of western Europe, to a full six weeks in length. In the late fifth century in Gaul a fast began on St. Martin's Day (11 November), but there is no evidence for Advent at Rome until the time of Gregory the Great,* a century later, when it contained only four weeks; nor was the period regarded as a time of fasting there. In fact, the origin of the fast in the East seems to have been (as in Lent) a preparation for baptism, in this case at Epiphany* (6 January). There is strictly no liturgical season of Advent in the East (i.e., allusion to the Advent theme in prayers and readings). The more limited Roman season gradually prevailed in the West, where Advent Sunday is now always the one nearest to St. Andrew's Day (30 November).
ADVENT. See Parousia; Eschatology.