Advent season is here again. A wonderful season that prepares us not only for the great celebration of Christmas but also for the Lord's Second Coming. The Church invites us to set aside four weeks to make ourselves ready for the special visit of the Lord at Christmas and to make ourselves ready for His Second Coming. Since the middle ages, making of an Advent Wreath during the season of Advent is a popular tradition used by Christians to prepare for the joyful coming of Christ both at Christmas and at the end of time. It is seen in churches and in homes as well. However, many are not aware of the spiritual truths hidden in this popular custom.
Alright then, let's do some advent catechism by looking at the meaning of each symbol used for the Advent Wreath.
1. WREATH: This is typically a circle of branches from an evergreen tree. It could be natural (preferable) or artificial. This primarily symbolises live and eternity - as the circle has no beginning or end. It symbolises also God's unending love to us.
2. THE CANDLES: A total of 4 candles are typically used, representing the four Sundays of Advent. The candles themselves symbolise the Light of Christ, which grows brighter as the feast of Christmas approaches. Three of the four candles are traditionally violet (purple) in colour, corresponding to the liturgical colour of each Sunday of Advent, symbolising penance, prayer and sacrifice. The Rose coloured candle (4th candle), lighted on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, is one of joy, that signals the upcoming joy of Christmas.
However, the candles are usually described in the sequence of *Hope* , *Peace* , *Joy* and *Love* .
In addition, some traditions place a 5th candle - White - in the middle and to be lighted on Christmas eve, symbolising the luminous joy of the birth of Christ. The wreath is also decorated lightly with some colorful decorations to add beauty.
Very important, each candle is lighted with a short prayer composed for every week of Advent. On the first Sunday of Advent, you may sprinkle the wreath with holy water and bless it before the first purple candle is lit. The appropriate Advent collect (Opening prayer for the Mass) can be said as the candle[s] are lit each day of the week. The second Sunday two purple candles are lit; the third Sunday, two purple and one rose; and all candles are lit on the fourth Sunday.
So, the Advent Wreath, a beautiful Advent tradition, can be a way to involve everyone to prepare - not only for celebrating Our Lord's birth, but to make our hearts truly ready to receive Him. Why don't you make one this Advent.
By Rev. Fr. Peter Ajao, sma (Working in Egypt)
posted by: Mark