Advent – a Season of Hope, Faith, Joy and Peace

Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical cycle. It is a solemn season that has a two-fold character. It is a time of preparation for the Solemnity of Christmas, in which we recall the first coming of Jesus the Christ – i.e., the messiah or the anointed one. It is also a time when the Church reminds us that there will be yet a second coming at the end of time. Jesus says as much to his disciples, as recounted in last Sunday’s Gospel: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves…, And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”

Advent therefore, is a time to faithfully recall these two comings of Christ while preparing our minds and hearts for the joyful celebration of Jesus’ first coming on Christmas day. That said, I came across a wonderful description of the purpose and symbolism of the Advent wreath and candles on the Mercy Home for Boys & Girls website, and want to share this with you in the hope that it will bring new meaning to your celebration of Advent.

“The use of the wreath and candles during Advent are a longstanding Catholic tradition that was originally adopted by Christians in the Middle Ages as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. The wreath and candles are full of symbolism tied to the Christmas season. The wreath itself, which is made of various evergreens, signifies continuous life. 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 we find in Christ. Even the individual evergreens that make up the wreath have their own meanings that can be adapted to our faith. The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering. The pine, holly, and yew signify immortality and the cedar signifies strength and healing. The pine cones that decorate the wreath symbolize life and resurrection. The wreath as a whole is meant to remind us of both the

immortality of our souls and God’s promise of everlasting life to us through Christ.

The candles also have their own special significance. The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent, and one candle is lit each Sunday. Three of the candles are purple because the color violet is a liturgical color that signifies a time of prayer, penance, and sacrifice.

The first candle, which is purple, symbolizes hope. It is sometimes called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, especially Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. It represents the expectation felt in anticipation of the coming Messiah. The second candle, also purple, represents faith. It is called the “Bethlehem Candle” as a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. The third candle is pink and symbolizes joy. It is called the “Shepard’s Candle,” and is pink because rose is a liturgical color for joy. The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday and is meant to remind us of the joy that the world experienced at the birth of Jesus, as well as the joy that the faithful have reached the midpoint of Advent. On the fourth week of Advent, we light the final purple candle to mark the final week of prayer and penance as we wait for the birth of our Savior. This final purple candle, called the “Angel’s Candle,” symbolizes peace. It reminds us of the message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.” Finally, there is a white candle that is placed in the middle of the wreath and lit on Christmas Eve. This candle is called the “Christ Candle” and represents the life of Christ. The color white is for purity—because Christ is our sinless, pure Savior.”

Since 1887, Mercy Home for Boys & Girls has provided children and families with healing and tools to build brighter futures. It gives children who’ve experienced abuse, neglect, or violence a safe home, educational support, and career guidance.
To learn more about Mercy Home, visit their website at:  https://www.mercyhome.org/about-us/

Deacon Ernie