(Claire College Choir, Cambridge University, performing at St. Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St. Edmunds, England. Timothy Brown, conductor; Jonathan Brown, organ.)
At sundown this evening, the Church began the liturgical season of Advent, and thus began the ecclesiastical new year. In the Middle Ages Advent became a penitential season prior to Christmas; for that reason the liturgical color of the season is purple, the color of penitence, and the Gloria is omitted from both the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms of the Roman Rite. Over time, Advent lost its penitential character, but has remained a time of preparation for the Coming of the Lord.
The first lesson from the lectionary for the First Sunday of Advent highlights the anticipatory nature of the Advent season. Taken from the Book of Jeremiah 33:14-16, the lesson emphasizes God's promise to Israel to raise up a "just shoot" from the House of David to bring justice and safety. As translated by the Revised Standard Version (2nd Catholic Edition), the text reads as follows:
Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness int he land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness."