Advent marks the beginning of the church’s liturgical year. It is a season of joyful expectation, hope and preparation for the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ.
The traditions began in the Roman Catholic church in the fourth century. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming” and is comprised of the four Sundays prior to Christmas, culminating on Christmas Eve. It’s a time, much like Lent, to stop and take note of our spiritual lives.
Last week, after mass, parishioners were offered special bracelets with the words, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” My husband and I each put one on and went about our day. It’s a wonderful reminder of what the real meaning is of this sacred holiday!
The Advent wreath, embedded with rich meaning, is one of the best known symbols of Advent. Traditionally, made of evergreen branches formed into a circle, it represents eternal life. Held within the wreath are four candles, three of which are violet (or purple) and one is rose (or pink).
The four candles on the wreath represent the 4,000 years between Adam and Eve and the birth of Jesus Christ. Each Sunday during the season of Advent, a candle is lit as a visual reminder that “Christ is the Light of the World” (John 8:12).
Violet is a liturgical color that is used to signify a time of prayer, penance, and sacrifice and is used during Advent and Lent. During the first two weeks of Advent we light the first two violet candles, representing hope and love respectively.
The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. On this day we rejoice and celebrate that Christmas (the birth of Jesus) is almost here. Rose is a liturgical color that is used to signify joy, so we light the single rose candle on the third Sunday of Advent.
The last violet candle represents peace and is lit to mark the final week of prayer and penance as we wait expectantly for the soon-coming birth of the King of Kings.