Advent (ad-venio in Latin or “to come to”) is a time of waiting, expectation, and preparation for the birth of Jesus the Christ, the world’s savior, on Christmas Day. Advent is the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year and is comprised of the four Sundays before Christmas culminating on Christmas Eve and marked by special seasonal devotions. During Advent, we are called to prepare for the birth of the Christ into the world, and His final coming at the end of the world, and His coming into our hearts today. There are many ways to prepare for Advent with your family and loved ones. Some popular Advent activities and devotions are the lighting of the Advent wreath each Sunday and using a daily Advent calendar. Advent prayers are also a popular way to join with the Church in prayer during this special liturgical season.
We have just celebrated the first week of Advent lighting the first candle on our Parish Advent Wreath. For most Catholics, Advent calendars and or Advent wreaths are a favorite way of leading their way through the Advent season. We will look at Advent Wreaths, some may not be aware of the meaning and symbolism of the tradition of lighting 4 or 5 candles, around a Wreath. Lighting just 1 each week during the Advent season.
The circular shape of the wreath, represents eternal life through our faith in Jesus Christ. Also, God’s complete and unending love for us. Similar to the meaning of the Wedding band, a Man gives to his Wife and the Wedding band she gives to him. God’s love sent his Son into the world to redeem us from the curse of sin.
God’s promise to make all things new through our Savior existed for ages before our Advent. In the Bible, Christ is referred to as the “Light of the World” contrasted with the darkness of sin. The Advent candles demonstrate the contrast between darkness and light, the coming of our Savior.
Each candle represents 1,000 years. Together, the four candles symbolize the 4,000 years that humanity waited for the world’s Light of our Savior, from Adam and Eve to Jesus, whose birth was foretold in the Old Testament.
The Advent wreath helps us to contemplate the great drama of salvation history, surrounding the birth of God Incarnate who comes to redeem the human race. Each week another candle is lit representing the coming “Advent” of Jesus. Each candle dispels more darkness with a little light.
Violet is a liturgical color that is used to signify a time of prayer, penance, and sacrifice and is used during Advent and Lent. Advent, is the season where we spiritually wait in our “darkness” with hopeful expectation for our promised redemption, just as the whole world did before Christ’s birth, and just as the whole world does now as we eagerly await his promised return.
Rose is a liturgical color that is used to signify joy.
The 1st Sunday of Advent symbolizes Hope with the “Prophet’s Candle” reminding us that Jesus is coming. We light the first purple candle.
The 2nd Sunday of Advent symbolizes Faith with the “Bethlehem Candle” reminding us of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. We light the second purple candle.
The 3rd Sunday of Advent symbolizes Joy with the “Shepherd’s Candle” reminding us of the Joy the world experienced at the coming birth of Jesus. We light the rose or pink candle.
The 4th Sunday of Advent symbolizes Peace with the “Angel’s Candle” reminding us of the message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.” WE light the third purple candle.
Some Advent wreaths also include a fifth white “Christ” candle, symbolizing purity, that is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas day. Many circular wreaths can incorporate a white candle by adding a pillar candle to the wreath center