The season of Advent generally signals a time of preparation among Catholic worshipers as they count down the weeks until Christmas day.

Fr. Arnold Perham celebrates Mass with Br. Don Houde assisting

However, when Fr. Arnold Perham, CSV, celebrated Mass on the first Sunday of Advent for his confreres at the Province Center, he pointed to the ancient roots of this holy season — going all the way back to the 5th and 6th centuries — which include penance and fasting.

“Even now, the Greek Orthodox Church fasts for 40 days leading up Dec. 24,” Fr. Perham said. “They call it the Nativity fast as they prepare for the joyous occasion of the birth of Our Lord.”

In keeping with tradition, Br. Don Houde lights the first Advent candle

While Fr. Perham stopped short of calling for fasting, he did point to the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, an 11th Century monk, who preached that Advent prepares us not just for the birth of Christ — or for his promised second coming on Judgement Day — but for a third coming: when he makes himself known to each of us, daily, through prayer and the Scriptures.

“It is like a sacrament,” Fr. Perham says. “In this holy season of joy, as we await our Lord’s birth, may we learn to love him more.”