The Advent Wreath
The Advent Wreath
On the first day of Advent, Catholic families will set up an Advent wreath— a wreath of greenery adorned by a set of four candles — typically, three violet-colored, and one rose-colored. The wreath is either set upon a table (especially the dining room table), on the family altar, on pedestals, an end table, etc., or it can be suspended by ribbons from the ceiling, such as from a light fixture. The candles can be long, slim tapers, small votives, or fat pillars. There can be pinecones and such adorning the greenery, but because Advent is a penitential season, it shouldn’t be highly decorated with colorful ornaments.
The circular shape of the wreath is a symbol of eternity, and the greenery symbolizes hope and renewal. The colors of the typically-used violet and rose candles symbolize penance and joy, respectively. Each candle also represents one of the four weeks of Advent, and one thousand years of the four thousand years that (at least metaphorically) passed between Adam and Eve to Christ’s coming.
The first candle also recalls the Patriarchs; the second candle recalls the Prophets; the third candle recalls St. John the Baptist; and the final candle recalls Our Lady.
If colored candles are used, the violet candles are lit on the first, second, and fourth Sundays of Advent, and the rose candle is lit on the third Sunday. In any case, whether colored or white candles are used, one more candle is lit each week at dinnertime, the progressive lighting of the candles symbolizing the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead. The candles are kept burning throughout the Sunday supper, and then are immediately blown out afterward (candles can be replaced and greenery freshened as needed).
At midnight on Christmas Eve, the Advent wreath is replaced by a white “Christ candle” that is suitably adorned with holly, or by being carved with symbols of Christ, etc. This Christ Candle is used until the Epiphany or Candlemas, depending on the family’s particular Christmas customs. The greenery of the Advent wreath can now be decorated and turned into a Christmas wreath for use throughout the Christmas season.
The Blessing of the Advent Wreath
Lord our God, we praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ:
he is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples,
he is the wisdom that teaches and guides us,
he is 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. Amen