Arriving at Our Origins

Joanie Mercy

Etymology, or “the origin of words” is a natural study for a student of ancient languages.  Latin is especially fitting to study since it is a root language of our modern English.  Many words we use every day are actually Latin words.  Many more are derived from Latin ones.  Looking at the origin of words is not only interesting, but uncovers layers of meaning and builds connections between us and our own origins.

The season of Advent has its own ancient past, not just in ceremony but in the word itself.  Observance of Advent in the Church started in France in the 5th century.   However, the term “advent” came into popular use in Germany in the early 1800’s.  Advent calendars were printed to aid in the count down to Christmas. 

The word “advent” comes from a Latin root word that was used long before the birth of Christ.  “Advent” as a noun comes from the Latin “adventus” meaning “arrival.”  As a verb, it is derived from “advenio” meaning “come to.”  “Advenio,” in fact, is two Latin words in one.  “Ad” is the preposition “to” and “venio” is simply “come.”  Another root of the same word can be found in the Latin Christmas carol “Veni, veni, Emmanuel” (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel). 

Other English words that come from the advent word family can help give richer meaning to this season.   How do these words and their definitions enhance the meaning of Advent and the Christmas season for you?

Advance –       v. to move forward in a purposeful way

                        n. a development or improvement

                        adj.  done, sent or supplied beforehand

Adventure –    n. an unusual and exciting experience or activity

Advantage –    n.  the opportunity to gain something

When I sat in deep thought over these words, the aptness of the word “advent” for this time in the Christian church calendar rang true.  The birth of Christ was no coincidence, but a purposeful gift to the world, a Redeemer, a Savior, that was planned “beforehand” for our salvation.  And, what more unusual (I would actually say “unique”) and exciting event than that of his coming?

Synonyms for “advent” are equally revealing. 

Approach –      v. coming nearer from a distance 

Emergence –   n. coming into view after being revealed (Christ’s coming had been revealed in the Old Testament through God’s word and prophecies.)

Also, I found this synonym surprising, and probably the most edifying of all:

 Origin –           n.  a beginning

Since Jesus Christ is the Son of God, He being our origin is not surprising, but the idea that His arrival is one and the same with our origins set me deeper into reflective thought.  But, back to the etymology, the “origin” of the word, “Advent.”

Merriam-Webster gives one more definition for “advent.”

Advent –          n.  a coming into being or use (in other words, an origin)

Imagine that.

Joanie Mercy and her husband, Frank Drew, are both musicians. Their daughter Angelique is in 7th grade at Morning Star Academy. Mrs. Mercy graduated form Augustana College, attended University of Iowa College of Music, and formerly performed in regional orchestras including the Quad-City Symphony, Knox-Galesburg Symphony, Muscatine Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra. Mrs. Mercy teaches K-6 Latin and K-8 Music at Morning Star Academy and also conducts the MSA String Ensemble. She currently has 15 private students.

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