For numerous Christians Advent wreaths are popular way to celebrate the month of December leading up to the nativity of the Christ child.. Many people however are not familiar with their true spiritual significance and symbolism which is deeply embedded in many years of tradition. The Advent candles primarily reveal the strong contrast of the Light and Darkness spoken of in the Bible. Advent is a time of preparation for the soul of waiting vigilantly for the coming of Christ who is the Light of the world that pierces the darkness of death and sin. The first part of Advent highlights Christs second comingg at the end of time and the second part his co-ming in to human his-tory at the time of his birth in Bethlehem.
The circular form of the wreath which is usua-lly made up of , laurel ,spruce or holly tra-ditionally holds four candles which are lit successfully on each of the four Sundays of the
Advent season . Each candle is symbolic of 1000 years . Added together the four cand-les mark the 4000 years that the human race has eagerly waited for the promised Redee-mer from the very time of Adam and Eve to the birth of the Christ child whose birth was prophesised in the Old Testament scrip-tures . Some advent wreaths may contain a fifth white Christ candle symbolising purity which is often placed in the centre and not lit until Christmas Eve. The wreath is made in a circular ring of evergreens which reminds us of hope and the eternal life of Christ which through his grace is attainable to the faithful.
The dominant liturgical colour for Advent is purple this is used to convey a time for pra-yer , penance and personal sacrifice and is the same colour which is used during Lent. Advent also known in our faith as “ Little Lent”, is the season where we spiritually wait with hope and expectation for our promised Redeemer, just as the whole world did before Christ’s birth.
During the first 2 weeks of Advent we light the first 2 purple candles. The first Sunday of Advent symbolises hope with the” Prophets candle” reminding us of the arrival of our Lord, sometimes a purple candle is exchan-ged for a green as the colour green is repre-sentative of hope. The candle lit on the se-cond Sunday is representative of faith and is often referred to as the” Bethlehem candle”, it recalls Mary and Joseph’s long journey to the city of Bethlehem. On Gaudete Sunday “ Rejoicing Sunday”, the third Sunday of Ad-vent a pink or rose candle is lit, the priest also change his vest-ments from purple to pink which reminds us of the great joy recei-ved in our hearts at the birth of the baby Jes-us. On the fourth Sun-day of Advent the final purple candle known as the” Angel’s Candle” is lit this candle is sym-bolic of peace recalling to mind the message of the angels, “ Peace on Earth , Good will towards men”. The lighting of the candles is usually accompanied with an appropriate hymn a reading from scriptures or prayer.
The Advent wreath .Blessing.
There is a blessing of the Advent wreath at the beginning of Advent ,the wreath is blessed with a special blessing so that throughout the four weeks of the Advent season the family of the Church through the spiritual symbolism of the wreath will be brought in to an in-tense conversation and deeper communion with Christ. The Advent wreath is a familiar symbolic decoration not only in the Church but in many homes and schools.
Some of this article above is based on an ar-ticle by Gretchen Filz a Dominican lay person and well known journalist.