An excellent way to focus our thoughts and deepen our understanding of the meaning of Advent is to turn to the Bible. Sometimes, however, it’s hard to know where to start. That is why the Catholic Church has provided us with the Office of the Readings, part of the Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the Church. In the Office of the Readings, the Church has chosen Scripture passages that are appropriate to every day of the year.
Every season of the Church year has a certain theme or themes. During Advent, the Church turns to the Old Testament book of the Prophet Isaiah. There are many themes in Isaiah's prophecy, but some of the most important are:
- The need for repentance
- Spiritual conversion
- The extension of salvation from Israel to all nations
This article contains a link to the Scripture reading for each day of the first week of Advent, as well as a brief commentary on that reading.
On the first Sunday of Advent, we read the beginning of the book of Isaiah, where the prophet speaks in the voice of God and calls the people of Israel to repentance, to prepare them for the coming of His Son. But the Old Testament people of Israel also represents the New Testament Church, so the call to repentance applies to us as well.
In the reading for the first Monday of Advent, the Prophet Isaiah continues to call Israel to account, and God reveals His plan to remake Israel, purifying her so that she will be the shining city on a hill, toward which men of all nations will turn. This remade Israel is the Church of the New Testament, and it is Christ's coming that remakes Her.
The Prophet Isaiah continues the theme of the judgment of Israel in the reading for the first Tuesday of Advent. Because of the sins of the people, God will humble Israel, and only the "bud of the Lord"—Christ—will shine in glory.
In this passage for the first Wednesday of Advent, Isaiah discusses the vineyard that the Lord has built—the house of Israel. The passage calls to mind Christ's parable of the vineyard, in which the vineyard owner sends his only son to oversee the vineyard, and the workers in the vineyard kill him, foreshadowing Christ's own death.
In this reading for the first Thursday of Advent, we see Isaiah prophesying the purification of Old Testament Israel. The Chosen People have squandered their inheritance, and now God is opening the door of salvation to all nations. Israel survives, as the New Testament Church; and over her sits a just judge, Jesus Christ.
The Prophet Isaiah continues with his theme of the conversion of nations in the reading for the first Friday of Advent. With the coming of Christ, salvation is no longer confined to Israel. Egypt, whose enslavement of the Israelites represented the darkness of sin, will be converted, as will Assyria. Christ's love encompasses all nations, and all are welcome in the New Testament Israel, the Church.
Isaiah's prophecy foretells the coming of Christ, and of His triumph over sin. In the reading for the first Saturday of Advent, Babylon, the symbol of sin and idolatry, has fallen. Like the watchman, in this Advent we wait for the triumph of the Lord.