Advent is coming… just over two weeks from now we’ll be donning the purple and keeping watch for the four-fold arrival of Christ: in his Nativity, in his Sacraments, in the hearts of his faithful people, and in power and great glory upon his bodily return.
To be fair, I’ve only ever heard of a “three-fold” advent, with different sources choosing either the Sacraments or the believer’s heart. But I’m not going to get into that here and now.
The changing of the seasons, liturgically speaking, is never sudden. Each season, or sub-season, has its transition markers. The modern calendar is a little rougher ’round the edges than the traditional lectionary, but the approach toward Advent is a smooth one in both systems.
in the traditional calendar & lectionary
The Trinitytide Collects & lessons follow an upward path of spiritual growth and maturity, culminating in the ultimate goal of Christian perfection via union with Christ. The natural response to such a progression is to issue a call to labor, to strive for that perfection, to prepare ourselves for that union with Christ, which is very much in line with Advent’s call to “keep watch.” Further, the Last Sunday before Advent is a fitting close for the Trinitytide themes and a herald of the Advent season to come. It’s hardly a stretch to see it as a sort of “Christ the King Sunday” like what we have in the modern calendar.
in the modern calendar & lectionary
The sequential Gospel and Epistle lessons approach their end through the month of November. In each of the three years, the final weeks before Advent take us into the eschatological discourse of Jesus, looking at the “signs of the end” and his eventual bodily return. This actually steps on the toes of the traditional Advent season, and opens up the modern Advent to a slightly heavier focus on the upcoming Nativity of Jesus. So in a way, the modern calendar begins the Advent themes as many as three weeks early. It’s such a smooth transition that there was actually an “Advent Project” some years ago, advocating for a 7-week Advent, like the Church had in Late Antiquity. Feel free to peruse that site, but be warned that it contains much that is theologically and liturgically liberal, perhaps inappropriate for a healthy Christian congregation.