Beginning the Church’s liturgical year, Advent is the season encompassing the four Sundays leading up to the celebration of Christmas. Advent has a twofold benefit; as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered as well as a season when that remembrance directs our minds and hearts to await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation which also includes an element of penance, in the sense of preparing, quieting and disciplining our hearts for the full joy of Christmas.
The Advent Wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition and is used to symbolically commemorate newness, eternal life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 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. The wreath comprises four Advent candles (three purple and one pink), which demonstrates the strong contrast between darkness and light and reminds us that, as Christians, we are meant to shine the light of Christ in this world. As Jesus tells us, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Advent candles 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.
Purple is the primary color associated with Advent. Within the Catholic Church, it symbolizes penance, preparation and sacrifice. Each week of Advent has a specific meaning and relevance.
Preparing for Advent
Advent comes at a time when life for families is exceptionally busy, having to juggle Christmas concerts, dinners and school activities, shopping, decorating and the plethora of other activities that come with this time of year. We can, at times, become overburdened and overwhelmed, allowing these activities and events to overshadow the true meaning of the season.
In order to truly experience the joy of Christmas, every effort must be made to prepare our hearts as families, during the preceding weeks of Advent. As Pope Francis reminds us, Advent is a time to be mindful and prayerful. Advent continues to be a meaningful season in my own life. It is a time that I take time to sit in silence and reflect on the times when I was aware of Christ’s presence. The lighting of the Advent candles serves as a powerful reminder of the Light of Christ. Let us resolve this Advent, to be shining examples of God’s light in the world.
I have attached a prayer for the first week of Advent, which has helped to create in me, a spirit of peace and preparedness.