Skip to comments.The Advent Wreath
Posted on 11/29/2003 8:44:32 AM PST by Salvation
"Customarily the Advent Wreath is constructed of a circle of evergreen branches into which are inserted four candles. According to tradition, three of the candles are violet and the fourth is rose. However, four violet or white candles may also be used (Book of Blessings 1510).
The rose candle is lit the third Sunday of Advent, for this color anticipates and symbolizes the Christmas joy announced in the first word of the Entrance Antiphon: "Rejoice" (Latin, Gaudete). For this reason the Third Sunday is also called Gaudete Sunday, and rose color vestments are permitted.
The Advent Wreath represents the long time when people lived in spiritual darkness, waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Light of the world. Each year in Advent people wait once again in darkness for the coming of the Lord, His historical coming in the mystery of Bethlehem, His final coming at the end of time, and His special coming in every moment of grace.
During Advent, family and friends can gather around the Advent Wreath lighting the appropriate candle(s), read from the daily Advent meditation and sing songs. The Church's official Book of Blessings also provides a blessing ceremony for the advent wreath which can be used in the absence of
Think about making one for your family. Use it for daily prayers each morning or evening at the breakfast or dinner table.
All: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Leader: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
Leader: In the short days and long nights of Advent, we realize how we were always waiting for deliverance, always needing salvation by our God. Around this wreath, we shall remember God's promise.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing.
This is the Word of the Lord.
(Alternate readings: Isaiah 63:16-17 or Isaiah 64:2-7)
All: Thanks be to God.
Leader: Let us now pray for God's blessing upon us and upon this wreath.
Lord our God, we praise you for your child, Jesus Christ: the Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples, the wisdom that teaches and guides us, the Savior of every nation.
Lord God, 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.
Light the first candle.
Leader: Let us bless the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God. (Making the sign of the cross)
The blessing concludes with a verse from O Come, O Come, Emmanuel or another advent song.
Each day in Advent, perhaps at the evening meal, light the candles: one candle the first week, two the second, and so forth.
---> The Churchs liturgical year begins with the first Sunday of Advent.
---> Advent begins on the Sunday nearest November 30th, which is the feast of St. Andrew, and lasts until December 24th.
---> The word Advent comes from the word adventus which means coming.
---> Advent is a season in the Church year when we remember how the Word of God became human in the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, which we celebrate on Christmas. During Advent we also reflect on and celebrate how Jesus comes into our lives and is present with us every day.
---> Advent is a time of hoping and working for a change of heart. We focus on being more open to the love of God in our lives, and the salvation offered through Jesus.
---> The Advent wreath is a tradition of the season. It is a symbol of our hope in Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the world.
---> The circle and evergreens on the Advent wreath remind us of Gods everlasting love which has no beginning and no end.
---> The four unlit candles on the wreath remind us of the four thousand years before Christs birth, a time of spiritual cold and darkness as humanity awaited the birth of the Messiah. They also represent the four weeks of Advent.
---> It is customary to use three purple and one pink or white candle on the Advent wreath. The purple reminds us of the need for sorrow for our sins. The pink or white candle reminds us of the joy and hope we share in Jesus, the Light of the World, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.
--->Advent begins with the lighting of one purple candle on the first Sunday of Advent. The pink candle is lit the third week when the Advent focus shifts to the special joy of the Christmas event. The increasing light of each week reminds us that Christmas is closer, and Christs presence continues to grow and brighten our lives. It also reminds us that by being Christs light today, we can brighten the darkness we find in our lives and in the world around us.
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The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn the wheel of the earth back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.
By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. After all, Christ is the Light that came into the world to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (cf. John 3:19-21). By 1500, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.
The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath is made of various evergreens, signifying continuous life. Even these evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted to our faith: The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns, and one English legend tells of how the cross was made of holly. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.
The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; 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 progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lords first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.
The light again signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day adaptions include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and one rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season.
In family practice, the Advent wreath is most appropriately lit at dinner time after the blessing of the food. A traditional prayer service using the Advent wreath proceeds as follows: On the First Sunday of Advent, the father of the family blesses the wreath, praying: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen. He then continues for each of the days of the first week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg thee, and come, that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen. The youngest child then lights one purple candle.
During the second week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen. The oldest child then lights the purple candle from the first week plus one more purple candle.
During the third week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen. The mother then lights the two previously lit purple candles plus the rose candle.
Finally, the father prays during the fourth week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen. The father then lights all of the candles of the wreath.
Since Advent is a time to stir-up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide us a way to augment this special preparation for Christmas. Moreover, this good tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.
These prayers, faithful translations of the Latin Collects, or opening prayers, may be said every evening when the Advent wreath is lit.
In English-speaking countries, this Sunday was called "Stirrup Sunday", because the "stir-up" of the Collect was the signal to begin to "stir-up" the fruits for the baking of Christmas cakes and puddings.
On the third Sunday in Advent, Gaudete Sunday, the Church can no longer contain her joyful longing for the coming of the Savior. We light the rose candle and rejoice that our redemption is so close at hand. Gaudete comes from the Latin Antiphon, which begins, "Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.." [Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice...]. On this day, rose-colored vestments are worn, and flowers may decorate the chancel of the church.
From Celebrating Advent and Christmas: A Sourcebook for Families, published by Women for Faith & Family, PO Box 8326, St. Louis, MO 63132. Phone 314 863-8385. Copyright Women for Faith & Family. Permission is hereby granted to reprint these prayers for personal use or for parish or schools, with proper acknowledgement of source.)
You know, as a Baptist he was brought up to consider all the Catholic rites and rituals as practically paganism. Then we joined a tiny little parish where the priest took a real interest in us, and the more he learned, the more interested and open-minded he became. THEN...I took him to the Salt Lake City Cathedral for mass, and later a tour. He was blown away!