The history of Advent

Judith Costello
Father Thom Hennen speaks on the history of Advent in the rectory at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

For The Catholic Messenger

Surrounded by holiday lights and a warm fire in the rectory of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, Father Thom Hennen, the pastor, shared the history of Advent with parishioners. Twenty-eight people squeezed into the dining area on Dec. 1 to hear his presentation.

“We know that Christ’s birth was celebrated and the time before it was a time of fasting in the early Church,” said Father Hennen. Although the precise time when Advent was defined as a season of the Church is unclear, “we know that St. Ambrose, St. Augustine and St. Maximus of Turin began to preach about this in the 4th century.”

“There is debate about the actual date of Christ’s birth,” said Father Hennen. “But really that is unimportant. Dec. 25 is the time of the least amount of light in the calendar year and it reminds us that the Incarnation brings us light, warmth and hope.”


As the fire blazed nearby, Father Hennen shared his appreciation for the symbol of the candles on the Advent wreath. “The candle gives off warmth and light which we need. And it also represents the self-sacrificing love of Jesus as the candle burns down. The candle gives of itself.”

During Advent “we remember that Jesus came in the past. He comes again to us right now. And he will come again in glory.” Father Hennen shared that Advent and Lent both began as times of fasting, almsgiving and penance.

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