Advent marks the beginning of the observance of the coming of Jesus Christ, or the nativity of Jesus. This is a practice observed by many Western and Eastern Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic Church.
In the Roman Catholic Church, Advent is celebrated through Sunday Liturgical Masses and the lighting of the Advent Wreath for each Sunday of Advent.
How Long is Advent?
Advent begins on the 4th Sunday prior to the last Sunday before Christmas. The first Sunday of Advent is usually the last Sunday in November. What this means is that Advent lasts for four Sundays prior to the Sunday before Christmas.
This wreath symbolizes the four Sundays of Advent. Traditionally, it is a simple wreath adorned with four candles, one for each Sunday in Advent. The wreath actually has a strong symbolism in the Christian faith, where the evergreens used in making the wreath is a symbol for life and the circular shape of the wreath is a symbol for God’s eternity, the circle being continuous; without beginning or end.
The candles also have a strong symbolism in the Christian faith. In an Advent Wreath, there are 3 purple candles and one pink candle. The color purple marks the Christian tradition of offering prayers and sacrifices, as well as repentance for sins in preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ.
The pink candle on the other hand, is a symbol for rejoicing because the faithful have come more than halfway to their preparations for Jesus’ birth. It is lit on the 3rd Sunday of Advent.
The 3rd Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday, which in Latin means to rejoice. During this time, the priests also wear rose-colored vestments during the Liturgical celebration.
The White Candle
Oftentimes, a 5th candle is included in the circle of four candles and is placed in the center of the wreath. Also called the Christ Candle, this is lit on Christmas Eve and sometimes on Christmas Day.
In Lutheran and Anglican Churches, blue candles are used in place of the purple candles as blue is seen as a color of hope – hope that is placed on the coming of Jesus Christ.
With the blue candles, the priests also wear blue vestments in keeping with their tradition.
Whatever color of candles are used in the Advent Wreath, tradition remains that the wreath symbolizes the coming of the birth of Jesus Christ and is celebrated throughout the world by the Christian faithful.