Scripture Readings for the First Week of Advent

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Cease Doing Evil; Learn to Do Good

The Gospels on the coffin of Pope John Paul II, May 1, 2011. (Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)
The Gospels are displayed on the coffin of Pope John Paul II, May 1, 2011. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

Advent marks the start of the liturgical new year. The Church, in her wisdom, and guided by the Holy Spirit, has given us the liturgical year to draw us ever closer to God. Year after year, we follow the same path, through preparation for Christ's coming, to His birth at Christmas, through the preliminary days of His ministry and the revelation of His divinity at Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord, through our preparations in Lent for Christ's death on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter, and on to the Ascension and the Pentecost season, before the long, slow walk through Christ's moral teachings in Ordinary Time, up until the Feast of Christ the King, the final Sunday before it all begins again.

Drawing Closer to God

To the outside observer—and even all too often to us—it might seem like we're simply walking in circles. But we're not—or at least we shouldn't be. Every trip through the liturgical year should be a bit like walking on a path around and up a mountain: Each revolution should find us a bit closer to our goal than we were the year before. And that goal, of course, is life itself—the fullness of life in the presence of God in Heaven.

Back to the Basics

Yet, every year, the Church brings us back to the basics, because we cannot make progress in our spiritual lives unless we're ready to leave the things of this world behind. In the Scripture Reading for the First Sunday in Advent, found in the Office of the Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours, the Prophet Isaiah reminds us that simply following the rules can lead to vain sacrifices: Our actions need to be motivated by love of God and of our fellow man. Unless we "Cease doing evil, and learn to do good," we will find ourselves next Advent back at the base of the mountain, another year older but none the wiser nor holier.

The Prophet Isaiah: Our Advent Guide

During Advent, we should spend some time—even just five minutes each day—with the following Scripture readings. Drawn from the Old Testament book of the Prophet Isaiah, they stress the need for repentance and spiritual conversion, and the extension of salvation from Israel to all nations. As we listen to Isaiah call Israel to conversion, we should think about those things that we know we need to cease doing, and resolve to remove them from our lives this Advent, to prepare our souls for the coming of Christ.

The readings for each day of the First Week of Advent, found on the following pages, come from the Office of the Readings, part of the Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the Church.

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Scripture Reading for the First Sunday of Advent

Albert of of Sternberk's pontifical, Strahov Monastery Library, Prague, Czech Republic
Albert of of Sternberk's pontifical, Strahov Monastery Library, Prague, Czech Republic. Fred de Noyelle/Getty Images

The Time of Repentance Is at Hand

Throughout Advent, the Catholic Church prescribes readings from the greatest of the prophets, the Prophet Isaiah, whose writings foreshadow the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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. Christ has already come, at the first Christmas; but He is coming again at the end of time, and we need to prepare our souls.

We need to "cease doing evil, and learn to do good," and Isaiah mentions specific acts of charity that we might take to heart this Advent season: help those who are oppressed, by poverty or injustice; relieve the orphaned; care for widows. Our works flow from our faith, and are a sign of that faith. But, as the Apostle James declared, "Faith without works is dead."

Isaiah 1:1-18 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

The vision of Isaias the son of Amos I which he saw concerning Juda and Jerusalem in the days of Ozias, Joathan, Achaz, and Ezechias, kings of Juda.

Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken. I have brought up children, and exalted them: but they have despised me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel hath not known me, and my people hath not understood.

Woe to the sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a wicked seed, ungracious children: they have forsaken the Lord, they have blasphemed the Holy One of Israel, they are gone away backwards.

For what shall I strike you any more, you that increase transgression? the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is sad. From the sole of the foot unto the top of the head, there is no soundness therein: wounds and bruises and swelling sores: they are not bound up, nor dressed, nor fomented with oil.

Your land is desolate, your cities are burnt with fire: your country strangers devour before your face, and it shall be desolate as when wasted by enemies.

And the daughter of Sion shall be left as a covert in a vineyard, and as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, and as a city that is laid waste. Except the Lord of hosts had left us seed, we had been as Sodom, and we should have been like to Gomorrha.

Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom, give ear to the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrha.

To what purpose do you offer me the multitude of your victims, saith the Lord? I am full, I desire not holocausts of rams, and fat of fatlings, and blood of calves, and lambs, and buck goats. When you came to appear before me, who required these things at your hands, that you should walk in my courts? Offer sacrifice no more in vain: incense is an abomination tome. The new moons, and the sabbaths, and other festivals I will not abide, your assemblies are wicked. My soul hateth your new moons, and your solemnities: they are become troublesome to me, I am weary of bearing them. And when you stretch forth your hands, I will turn away my eyes from you: and when you multiply prayer, I will not hear: for your hands are full of blood.

Wash yourselves, be clean, take away the evil of your devices from my eyes: cease to do perversely, learn to do well: seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge for the fatherless, defend the widow.

And then come, and accuse me, saith the Lord: if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

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Scripture Reading for Monday of the First Week of Advent

Man thumbing through a Bible
Man thumbing through a Bible. Peter Glass/Design Pics/Getty Images

The Rebirth of Israel

As Advent gets under way, we continue reading from the Prophet Isaiah. In the reading for the first Monday of Advent, 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.

Isaiah 1:21-272:1-5 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

How is the faithful city, that was full of judgment, become a harlot? justice dwelt in it, but now murderers. Thy silver is turned into dress: thy wine is mingled with water. Thy princes are faithless, companions of thieves: they all love bribes, the run after rewards. They judge not for the fatherless: and the widow's cometh not in to them.

Therefore saith the Lord the God of hosts, the mighty one of Israel: Ah! I will comfort myself over my adversaries: and I will be revenged of my enemies. And I will turn my hand to thee, and I will clean purge away thy dress, and I will take away all thy tin. And I will restore thy judges se they were before, and thy counsellors as of old. After this thou shalt be called the city of the just, a faithful city. Sion shall be redeemed in judgment, and they shall bring her back in justice.

The word that Isaias the son of Amos saw, concerning Juda and Jerusalem.

And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.

And many people shall go, and say: Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall come forth from Sion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

And he shall judge the Gentiles, and rebuke many people: and they shall turn their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they be exercised any more to war.

O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

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Scripture Reading for Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

A gold-leaf Bible
A gold-leaf Bible. Jill Fromer/Getty Images

The Judgment of God

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.

When Christ comes, Israel will be purified. Since Christ comes both at His Birth and at the Second Coming, and since the Old Testament Israel is a type of the New Testament Church, the prophecy of Isaiah applies to the Second Coming as well. During Advent, we not only prepare ourselves for Christ's Birth; we prepare our souls for the Final Judgment.

Isaiah 2:6-224:2-6 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

For thou hast cast off thy people, the house of Jacob: because they are filled as in times past, and have had soothsayers as the Philistines, and have adhered to strange children. Their land is filled with silver and gold: and there is no end of their treasures. And their land is filled with horses: and their chariots are innumerable. Their land also is full of idols: they have adored the work of their own hands, which their own fingers have made.

And man hath bowed himself down, and man hath been debased: therefore forgive them not. Enter thou into the rock, and hide thee in the pit from the face of the fear of the Lord, and from the glory of his majesty.

The lofty eyes of man are humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be made to stoop: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. Because the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and highminded, and upon every one that is arrogant, and he shall be humbled. And upon all the tall and lofty cedars of Libanus, and upon all the oaks of Basan. And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the elevated hills. And upon every high tower, and every fenced wall. And upon all the ships of Tharsis, and upon all that is fair to behold.

And the loftiness of men shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be humbled, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. And idols shall be utterly destroyed. And they shall go into the holes of rocks, and into the caves of the earth from the face of the fear of the Lord, and from the glory of his majesty, when he shall rise up to strike the earth. In that day a man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which he had made for himself to adore, moles and bats.

And he shall go into the clefts of rocks, and into the holes of stones from the face of the fear of the Lord, and from the glory of his majesty, when he shall rise up to strike the earth.

Cease ye therefore from the man, whose breath is in his nostrils, for he is reputed high.

In that day the bud of the Lord shall be in magnificence and glory, and the fruit of the earth shall be high, and a great joy to them that shall have escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that every one that shall be left in Sion, and that shall remain in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, every one that is written in life in Jerusalem.

If the Lord shall wash away the filth of the daughters of Sion, and shall wash away the blood of Jerusalem out of the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. And the Lord will create upon every place of mount Sion, and where he is called upon, a cloud by day, and a smoke and the brightness of a flaming fire in the night: for over all the glory shall be a protection. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shade in the daytime from the heat, and for a security and covert from the whirlwind, and from rain.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

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Scripture Reading for Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

Prest With Lectionary
A priest with a lectionary. undefined

The Vineyard of the Lord

One of the reasons that the Church prescribes readings from the Prophet Isaiah for Advent is that no other Old Testament writer more fully foretells the life of Christ.

In this passage for the first Wednesday of Advent, Isaiah discusses the vineyard that the Lord has built—the house of Israel. Those for whom the vineyard was built have not cared for it, and it has yielded only wild grapes. 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.

Isaiah 5:1-7 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

I will sing to my beloved the canticle of my cousin concerning his vineyard. My beloved had a vineyard on a hill in a fruitful place. And he fenced it in, and picked the stones out of it, and planted it with the choicest vines, and built a tower in the midst thereof, and set up a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.

And now, O ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and ye men of Juda, judge between me and my vineyard. What is there that I ought to do more to my vineyard, that I have not done to it? was it that I looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it hath brought forth wild grapes?

And now I will shew you what I will do to my vineyard. I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be wasted: I will break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down. And I will make it desolate: it shall not be pruned, and it shall not be digged: but briers and thorns shall come up: and I will command the clouds to rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel: and the man of Juda, his pleasant plant: and I looked that he should do judgment, and behold iniquity: and do justice, and behold a cry.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

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Scripture Reading for Thursday of the First Week of Advent

Old Bible in Latin
Old Bible in Latin. Myron/Getty Images

​Zion, the Refuge of All Nations

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.

Isaiah 16:1-517:4-8 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

Send forth, O Lord, the lamb, the ruler of the earth, from Petra of the desert, to the mount of the daughter of Sion. And it shall come to pass, that as a bird fleeing away, and as young ones flying out of the nest, so shall the daughters of Moab be in the passage of Arnon.

Take counsel, gather a council: make thy shadow as the night in the midday: hide them that flee, and betray not them that wander about. My fugitives shall dwell with thee: O Moab, be thou a covert to them from the face of the destroyer: for the dust is at an end, the wretch is consumed: he hath failed, that trod the earth under foot.

And a throne shall be prepared in mercy, and one shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging and seeking judgment and quickly rendering that which is just.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall grow lean. And it shall be as when one gathereth in the harvest that which remaineth, and his arm shall gather the ears of corn: and it shall be as he that seeketh ears in the vale of Raphaim. And the fruit thereof that shall be left upon it, shall be as one cluster of grapes, and as the shaking of the olive tree, two or three berries in the top of a bough, or four or five upon the top of the tree, saith the Lord the God of Israel.

In that day man shall bow down himself to his Maker, and his eyes shall look to the Holy One of Israel.

And he shall not look to the altars which his hands made: and he shall not have respect to the things that his fingers wrought, such as groves and temples.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

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Scripture Reading for Friday of the First Week of Advent

Old Bible in English
Old Bible in English. Godong/Getty Images

The Conversion of Egypt and Assyria

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 19:16-25 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

In that day Egypt shall be like unto women, and they shall be amazed, and afraid, because of the moving of the hand of the Lord of hosts, which he shall move over it. And the land of Juda shall be a terror to Egypt: every one that shall remember it shall tremble because of the counsel of the Lord of hosts, which he hath determined concerning it.

In that day there shall be five cities in the land of Egypt, speaking the language of Chanaan, and swearing by the Lord of hosts: one shall be called the city of the sun.

In that day there shall be an altar of the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a monument of the Lord at the borders thereof: It shall be for a sign, and for a testimony to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt. For they shall cry to the Lord because of the oppressor, and he shall send them a Saviour and a defender to deliver them. And the Lord shall be known by Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall worship him with sacrifices and offerings: and they shall make vows to the Lord, and per- form them. And the Lord shall strike Egypt with a scourge, and shall heal it, and they shall return to the Lord, and he shall be pacified towards them, and heal them.

In that day there shall be a way from Egypt to the Assyrians, and the Assyrian shall enter into Egypt, and the Egyptian to the Assyrians, and the Egyptians shall serve the Assyrian.

In that day shall Israel be the third to the Egyptian and the Assyrian: a blessing in the midst of the land, which the Lord of hosts hath blessed, saying: Blessed be my people of Egypt, and the work of my hands to the Assyrian: but Israel is my inheritance.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

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Scripture Reading for Saturday of the First Week of Advent

St. Chad Gospels at Lichfield Cathedral
St. Chad Gospels at Lichfield Cathedral. Philip Game/Getty Images

The Fall of Babylon

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.

Isaiah 21:6-12 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

For thus hath the Lord said to me: Go, and set a watchman: and whatsoever he shall see, let him tell. And he saw a chariot with two horsemen, a rider upon an ass, and a rider upon a camel: and he beheld them diligently with much heed.

And a lion cried out: I am upon the watchtower of the Lord, standing continually by day: and I am upon my ward, standing whole nights.

Behold this man cometh, the rider upon the chariot with two horsemen, and he answered, and said: Babylon is fallen, she is fallen, and all the graven gods thereof are broken unto the ground.

O my thrashing and the children of my door, that which I have heard of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, I have declared unto you.

The burden of Duma calleth to me out of Seir: Watchman, what of the eight? watchman, what of the night? The watchman said: The morning cometh, also the night: if you seek, seek: return, come.

  • Source: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Bible (in the public domain)

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Richert, Scott P. "Scripture Readings for the First Week of Advent." ThoughtCo, Feb. 28, 2017, thoughtco.com/scripture-readings-first-week-advent-4117070. Richert, Scott P. (2017, February 28). Scripture Readings for the First Week of Advent. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/scripture-readings-first-week-advent-4117070 Richert, Scott P. "Scripture Readings for the First Week of Advent." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/scripture-readings-first-week-advent-4117070 (accessed September 24, 2017).