Today, the Church begins the important and holy season of Advent. The most familiar symbol during the season of Advent is the Advent wreath. Few of us, however, realize the many dimensions of the tradition of the Advent wreath. Anselm Grun, in his book, A Time of Fulfillment: Spiritual Reflections for Advent and Christmas, gives many meanings for the wreath and each candle.
In ancient times the wreath was a crown of victory. The wreath reminds us that in Christ we will be victorious over sin and death. Its round form shows that our inner brokenness will be mended and our sharp edges will be smoothed out. The wreath is also a promise that the family, which can stray toward falling apart, will now reunite around the candles we light on the Advent wreath.
Each Sunday of Advent, we light a candle. The first candle expresses our longing to have a deeper communion with God; I yearn to be one with myself, with others, and with God. The second candle refers to a polarity—between man and woman, between young and old, or between light and darkness. All opposites within me will be illuminated; the conflicts within our families will also be filled with the light of Christ.The third candle symbolizes body, soul and spirit—head, heart and belly. All three parts are to be illuminated by the light of Christ.
The third Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday, represented by the rose candle. “Gaudete” means rejoice, as we are invited to rejoice since the coming of Christ is imminent. The fourth candle refers to earthly things and everyday life which need to be filled with the light of Christ to find true joy.
The weekly progression of the lighting of the candles symbolizes our preparation, prayer, penitence, our hope and expectation of Jesus Christ’s first Advent of coming into the world and the Anticipation of Jesus Christ’s second coming to judge the living and the dead. As we light additional candles, the light of the wreath gets brighter and climaxes on Christmas Day with the lighting of the white candle which represents Jesus Christ as the Light of the World.
Advent is a great tradition with many symbols to know and understand, which can help us grow in our faith. In order to understand this important season, we have planned out several programs during Advent in which I encourage you to participate. Bishop Emeritus Robert Brom will us a series of lectures on “The New Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship” on Saturday, December 5th from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon. The following day, Sunday, December 6th at 9:45 am, Paula Bott, Director of Programs at Whispering Winds, will give a talk on Advent Tradition and will do some fun activities with us in the parish hall. I request you all join us in the talks as we begin our advent journey.
The Latin verb ricordare, which in English means “to remember,” literally means “to bring back to the heart.” Advent is a season of the heart, of our deepest longings and yearnings for God’s love and joy, God’s peace and justice and His abiding presence among us. May the holy season of Advent deepen our longing for Jesus!