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We do not know exactly when the tradition of celebrating the four weeks and Sundays that we call Advent began. While the feast of Christmas was observed by the fourth century, it is not until the later part of the sixth century that we have record of homilies for particular Sundays in Advent, which indicates that the practice of preparing for Christmas was numbered and named as Advent. Evidently, some parts of Europe had five Sundays of Advent, but documents show that Pope Gregory VII changed the number to four in the eleventh century. Today, we carry on the tradition of preparing for Christmas with four Sundays and their weekdays. Likewise, we observe the tradition of preparing for the other great Christian celebration, Easter, with the fifty-day journey of Lent.

As you pray, please change the personal pronouns as needed to make the prayers speak to you. The prayers are written with the thought that even as we pray alone, we participate in a whole world of prayer going on at all times, in all places and all around us.

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