The liturgical texts used during the four weeks of the season of Advent remind the faithful of the "absence of Christ." Therefore, the Collects of Advent do not end with, "through our Lord Jesus Christ," as during the rest of the year. In a spirit of penance and prayer we await the Mediator, the God-Man, preparing for His coming in the flesh, and also for His second coming as our Judge. The Masses for Advent strike a note of preparation and repentance mingled with joy and hope; hence, although the penitential violet is worn and the Gloria is omitted, the joyous Alleluia is retained. The readings from the Old Testament contained in the Introit, Gradual, Offertory, and Communion of the Masses, taken mostly from the prophecies of Isaias [Isiaiah] and from the Psalms, give eloquent expresseion to the longings of all nations for a Redeemer. We are impressed by repeated and urgent appeals to the Messias [Messiah]: "Come, delay no longer." The Lessons from St. Paul urge us to dispose ourselves fittingly for His coming. The Gospels describe the terrors of the Last Judgment, foretell the second coming, and tell of the preaching of St. John the Baptist "to prepare the way of the Lord."
In Advent, the Greek Church celebrates particularly the ancestors of our Lord -- all the Patriarchs and Prophets of the Old Testament, but especially Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Latin Church also mentions them often in this period. In the Breviary, many texts are taken from Isaias (Introit of the Second Sunday, Communion of the Third Sunday).
The idea of Advent is "Prepare you for the coming of Christ." Therefore the very appeals of the Patriarchs and Prophets are put into our mouths in Advent. Prepare for the coming of Christ the Redeemer, Who comes to prepare us for His second coming as Judge.
When the oracles of the Prophets were fulfilled and the Jews awaited the Messias, John the Baptist left the desert and came to the vicinity of the Jordan, bringing a baptism of penance to prepare souls for the coming of Christ. The world took him to be the Messias, but he replied with the words of Isaias: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare yet the way of the Lord."
During Advent we make straight for Christ the way to our souls -- and behold, our Lord will come at Christmas.
The First Sunday of Advent or the Fourth before Christmas, is the first day of the Liturgical Year. The Mass prepares us this day for the double coming (adventus) of mercy and justice. That is why St. Paul tells us, in the Epistle, to cast off sin in order that, being ready for the coming of Christ as our Savior, we may also be ready for His coming as our Judge, of which we learn in the Gospel. Let us prepare ourselves, by pious aspirations and by the reformation of our lives, for this twofold coming, Jesus our Lord will reward those who yearn for Him and await Him: "Those who trust in Him shall not be confounded."
Introit (Ps. 24:1,3,4); Epistle (Rom. 13:11-14); Gradual (Ps. 24:3,4); Gospel (Lk. 21:25-33); Offertory (Ps. 24:1-3); Communion (Ps. 84:13)
Numerous allusions appear in the Liturgy of this day to Jerusalem and her people. Let us be filled with sentiments of hope and joy, for the coming of Jesus is near. Let us prepare the way in our hearts for the Messias, our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ.
Introit (Is. 30:30; Ps. 79:2); Epistle (Rom. 15:4-13); Gradual (Ps. 49:2,3,5); Alleluia (Ps. 121:1); Gospel (Mt. 11:2-10); Offertory (Ps. 84:7,8)
On this day the Church urges us to gladness in the middle of this time of expectation and penance. The coming of Jesus approaches more and more. St. John, the holy precursor, announces to the Jews the coming of the Savior. "The Savior," he says to them, "lives already among us, though unknown. He will soon appear openly." Now is the time for fervent prayers and for imploring Jesus to remain with us by His mercy. Let us prepare the way for Him by repentance and penance and by a worthy reception of the Sacraments. All the prayers of this Mass are filled with what the Church wishes our souls to possess at the approach of the Savior.
Introit (Phil. 4:4-6; Ps. 84:2); Epistle (Phil. 4:4-7); Gradual (Ps. 79:2,3,2); Gospel (Jn. 1:19-28); Offertory (Ps. 84:2,3); Communion (Is. 35:4)
The Greater Advent Antiphons (or "Great O's")
At the beginning of the four seasons of the Ecclesiastical Year, the Ember Days have been instituted by the Church to thank God for blessings obtained during the past year and to implore further graces for the new season. Their importance in the Church was formerly very great. They are fixed on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: after the First Sunday of Lent for spring, after Pentecost Sunday for summer, after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (14th September) for autumn, and after the Third Sunday of Advent for winter. They are intended, too, to consecrate to God the various seasons in nature, and to prepare by penance those who are about to be ordained. Ordinations generally take place on the ember Days. The faithful ought to pray on these days for good priests. The Ember Days were until c. 1960 fast-days of obligation.[Acknowledgements: The Roman Catholic Daily Missal: with Kyriale in Gregorian notation; compiled from the Missale Romanum (1962) (Kansas City, MO: Angelus Press, 2004), pp. 135-171.]
Wednesdays in Ember Week of Advent
On the Wednesday of Ember week in Advent, the Mystery of the Annunciation is commemorated by many Churches. The Mass is sung early in the morning. That Mass is sometimes called the Golden Mass, Rorate Mass, or Messias Mass. On that occasion the Church is illuminated, as a token that the world was still in darkness when the Light of the world appeared. The Mass is called the Golden Mass possibly because in the Middle Ages the whole of the Mass or at least the initial letters were written in gold, or on account of the golden magnificence of the solemnity, or more probably on account of the special, great, "golden" grace which, at that time, is obtained by the numerous prayers. It is called Rorate Mass after the first words of the Introit of the Mass: Rorate Caeli; and Messias Mass because the Church, like our Lady, expresses on that day her longing for the arrival of the Messias.
Introit (Is. 45:8; Ps. 18:2); Lesson (Is. 2:2-5); Gradual (Ps. 23:8,3,4); Epistle (Is. 7:10-15); Gradual (Ps. 144:18,21); Gospel (Lk. 1:26-38)
Friday in Ember Week of Advent
Introit (Ps. 118:151,152,1); Epistle (Is. 11:1-5); Gradual (Ps. 84:8,2); Gospel (Lk. 1:37-47); Offertory (Ps. 84:7,8); Communion (Zach. 14:5,6)
Saturday in Ember Week of Advent
Introit (Ps. 79:4,2); Lesson (Is. 19:20-22); Gradual (Ps. 18:7,2); Lesson (Is. 35:1-7); Gradual (Ps. 18:6,7); Lesson (Is. 40:9-11); Gradual (Ps. 79:20,3); Lesson (Is. 45:1-8); Gradual (Ps. 79:3,2); Lesson (Dan. 3:47-51); Hymn (Dan. 3:52-56); Epistle (II Thess. 2:1-8); Tract (Ps. 79:2,3); Gospel (Lk. 3:1-6); Offertory (Zach. 9:9); Communion (Ps. 18:6,7)
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Introit (Is. 45:8; Ps. 18:2); Epistle (I Cor. 4:105); Gradual (Ps. 144:18,21); Gospel (Lk. 3:1-6); Offertory (Lk. 1:28,42); Communion (Is. 7:14)