The Advent Wreath
A Reflection by Fr. John Martin, Parochial Vicar
We have good news — the beginning of a new liturgical year in our Catholic Church. We have good news in our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is in this season that we begin a new commitment within ourselves to prepare for the second coming of Christ. This season of Advent is a penitential season and so we are called to include the observance of fasting, prayer, and meditation. This is a wonderful opportunity to take some time for great reflection and to build a plan for new and deeper spiritual growth.
The word “advent” comes from the Latin term adventus which means “arrival” or “coming,” particularly the arrival of something or someone of great significance. The lighting of an Advent Wreath is a traditional custom that originated in 16th-century Germany. On the branches of the wreath are four candles: three purple and one pink candle. In the center of the wreath sits a white candle.
On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple (or violet) candle is lit. This is called the “Prophecy Candle” and recalls the prophets, particularly Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Jesus Christ. It represents hope or expectation of the coming Messiah.
On the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle, called the “Bethlehem Candle,” is lit. This candle represents love and symbolizes Christ’s manger.
On the third Sunday of Advent, the pink (or rose) candle is lit. This Sunday is called “Gaudete Sunday.” Gaudete is a Latin word meaning “rejoice.” The change from purple to pink signifies the transition in season from repentance to celebration. The pink candle is called the “Shepherd’s Candle” and represents joy.
The last purple candle is called the “Angel’s Candle.” It is lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent and represents peace.
Traditionally, on Christmas Eve, the white center candle is lit. This “Christ Candle” represents the life of Jesus Christ that has come to light the world. It represents purity. My Sisters and Brothers, let us all rejoice and be renewed in our Faith as we prepare and await the Second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This story was written by Father John Martin, Parochial Vicar at St. Francis of Assisi, and published in the December issue of the St. Francis Grapevine.