Advent means “coming” in Latin. In Greek, it is translated from parousia, commonly used in reference to the Second Coming of the Messiah. It is a season of preparation, to prepare the way of the Lord.
The traditions of Advent include the color of dark “royal” purple or Sarum blue. Both symbolize preparation, penitence and royalty. An Advent wreath is a green wreath with candles (purple or blue), one for each of the four Sundays. The third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudette (“Rejoice,” from an ancient antiphon based on Philippians 4:4) Sunday, has an especially joyous emphasis, so often the candle on the wreath is rose or pink as a symbol of joy. A fifth, white candle, the Christ candle, is often added in the center when Christ is born in our hearts again, on Christmas. During Advent we recall the history of God's people and reflect on how the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament were fulfilled. This gives us a background for the present. Today we can reflect on the past track record of God and so begin to understand what it means to us now for the sake of what is to come, in our own future and that of our world.From the beginning, Advent has been a season of preparation for Christ's coming. When Advent observances first began, Christians living in the West (the western part of the Roman Empire) emphasized preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. Christians in the East stressed preparation for the celebration of Christ's birth. Today, our Scripture readings focus on three comings of Christ in reversed chronological order: (1) His Second Coming at the end of time; (2) His Messianic Coming, as announced by John the Baptist, to begin His official work as Messiah; (3) His First Coming in Bethlehem, as our newborn King. Featured in each of these three comings is a very important fourth coming, of course, the coming of Christ to each believer. If Christ hasn't come to you through baptism and faith, none of His other comings will benefit you!
For many centuries Advent's overall tone was one of sorrow for sin and penance. But in keeping with the tone of the Scripture readings for the season, in our day the tone of Advent is one of anticipation and hope, as well as one of repentance.