A comment on our blog post for the First Sunday of Advent asked about the differences in penance between Advent and Lent. This is such a good question that it deserves its own post!
As far as the similarities go, both seasons employ the use of purple vestments, a “rose” Sunday (Gaudete in Advent and Laetare in Lent), and the elimination of the Gloria in Mass–all identifying them as penitential seasons. Both seasons also lead up to an important Solemnity of the Lord (Christmas and Easter)–the reason why they are penitential seasons.
In Lent we recognize our sinfulness, our ‘fallenness’, both as a whole and individually. The Church gives us Lent as a time of repentance, a time of penance to strive to cooperate with the graces to reform our lives. This is a somber season as we look within ourselves and see in our hearts the nails which hung Christ on His Cross. It is a time when we forsake ourselves and instead join ourselves to Christ by participating in His redemptive sufferings. While Lent leads up to the Resurrection, a time of incredible joy, we must first pass through Good Friday, a time of incredible sorrow. Lent is thus a more subdued season.
Advent also is a time of penance, but the focus on this penance is more on preparation and readiness than on expiation and redemptive suffering. Christ is coming and we use penance as a way to be ready and waiting for Him. It is a time to “prepare the way of the Lord!” as Isaiah says and to make ready our answer to the question “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Jesus is coming and Advent is the season when we focus on opening our hearts to welcome Him when He comes. Our joyful Advent penance is primarily focused on removing anything that blocks Jesus from entering the door of our hearts.
If you’d like to read more, Deacon George Zarella wrote an excellent article that can be found here about the differences and similarities of our two penitential seasons.
Below is the requested Advent prayer. This particular holy card was created by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and posted here with their permission. It is traditionally said 15 times daily beginning on St. Andrew’s Day (Nov. 30th).