The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. It’s something we’d like to share with you…
Since Advent is a time to rekindle our faith in the Lord, the wreath provides a way to augment this special time of preparation for Christmas. The wreath also helps us to not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.
Traditionally, Advent wreaths have four candles that represent the four weeks of the season, the season of preparation for Christmas. Purple is the liturgical color of Advent and the color used on the 1st, 2nd, and 4th weeks. The purple candles symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. Rose (or pink) is a special color used on the 3rd Sunday of Advent (known as Gaudete Sunday meaning ‘rejoice’). Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas.
The light of the Advent wreath’s candles signifies Christ, the Light of the world. The lighting of each week’s candles symbolizes the expectation and hope of our Lord’s coming into the world at Christmas, as well as the anticipation of his second coming at the end of time.
In some traditions, each week’s candle symbolizes a different virtue and is known to have its own special significance.
The first week symbolizes Hope. Also known as the ‘Prophet’s Candle’ in remembrance of the prophets especially Isaiah who foretold the coming of Jesus.
The second week symbolizes Faith. Also, known as the ‘Bethlehem’s Candle’ in remembrance of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.
The third week symbolizes Joy. Also, known as the ‘Shepherd’s Candle’ in remembrance of the joy the world experienced at the birth of Jesus. It also represents the joy in reaching the midpoint of Advent.
The fourth week symbolizes Peace. Also, known as the ‘Angels Candle’ in remembrance of the angles’ message of ‘Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men’.
The actual origins of the Advent wreath are uncertain. By the Middle Ages however, Christians had adopted the tradition of using Advent wreaths as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. The use of the Advent wreath became a traditional practice which has found its place in the Church as well as in the home.
If you haven’t yet blessed your Advent wreath, here is a prayer you and your family can use. Its source is the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB). When the blessing of the Advent Wreath is celebrated in the home, it’s appropriate that it be blessed by a parent or another member of the family.
All make the sign of the cross as the leader says:
Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Response (R/.) Who made heaven and earth.
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
R/. Thanks be to God.
With hands joined, the leader says:
Lord our God,
we praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ:
he is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples,
he is the wisdom that teaches and guides us,
he is the Savior of every nation.
let your blessing come upon us
as we light the candles of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light
be a sign of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation.
May he come quickly and not delay.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
The blessing may conclude with a verse from
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”:
O come, desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of humankind;
bid ev’ry sad division cease
and be thyself our Prince of peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.