The Advent Season and the Wreath: Preparing for Christ

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(Source: St. George Anglican website)

We are in the last week of ordinary time based on the Catholic liturgical calendar. In fact, we celebrate the feast of Christ the King today, a fitting tribute  to end the liturgical ordinary time.  Advent season kicks in next week. But even before that, we’ve been getting festive everywhere as the days go by. Christmas in the Philippines is practically celebrated just right after All Souls’ Day, when families start bringing out the decorations for the coming holidays which is still weeks away.

In our family, we prepare for Christmas by observing the time-old Catholic tradition of lighting the Advent wreath. This practice is still done in Catholic schools, where children light up a candle each week. Now there are four candles in the wreath representing the four weeks preparation prior to Christmas. There are three purple candles (signifying penance and sacrifice) which are lit first, and then a rose pink candle signifying joy.  In some wreaths, there is a fifth candle—a white one—which is lit on Christmas Day representing our Lord Jesus Christ. Accompanying prayers are recited each week.   Each time on a Sunday, my family and I converge and pray before our Nativity scene where the image of the Holy Family–Jesus, Mary and Joseph–are found. We have been doing this for more than five years already that it has become a family tradition to us. Our Christmas celebration is never complete without doing this and the Simbang Gabi (Christmas novena). But that is a different story altogether.

How to Recite the Prayers for Advent

There are plenty of available sources in the Internet to choose from. I used to get prayers from the Internet (Ignatian Spirituality offers great meditations and prayers for Advent). Since two years ago, we’ve started using The Advent Wreath Prayer Guide that I’ve purchased from the St. Paul Publications. Copies are still available there.

 

 

 

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Heralding Christmas: Lighting the Advent Wreath

In grade school during this time of the year, I would remember doing the Advent wreath as a project and the whole class would wait eagerly who had made the best wreath.  Using green Japanese or crepe paper to create fringes and give the effect of leaves covering the circle, we would then adorn it four candles: three of these would be violet, one would be pink.  We would light one candle each week at the start of the Advent season.

The great thing about studying in a Catholic school is that religion teachers can be very repetitive that everything they teach you is practically the same each year.  You remember most of the important points of the faith until it grows on you like second skin.  Take for instance the Advent Wreath.  I never really gave much importance to it when I was younger, but look at me now–thirty years later—dusting and firming up the family wreath for the annual lighting which my family and I have been practicing for three years now.  It has become a tradition that my son is conscious of and expects since we started it.

 

The Symbols in the Advent Wreath

Though the history and origin of the wreath is sketchy, what is certain is that the early Christians used this in preparation for Christmas.  The greens encircling the wreath symbolize life and regeneration of life.  The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent, wherein a violet candle is lit each week.  Violet represents repentance.  As believers of Christ, we should sincerely ask repentance for our sins before His return, so that we become worthy of His promises when He comes to us.  The candles themselves represent the light of Jesus.  As each candle is lit, the light of Christ gives the promise of hope.  This burns brighter as another candle is lit every week until the fourth week.

After the three violet candles, the fourth candle is lit.  This is a pink one which symbolizes joy and the close coming of Jesus, i.e. His birth and our redemption.  In some churches, a fifth candle is lit to represent Jesus.  Symbolically, all of these candles turn to gold which figuratively symbolizes light—the true LIGHT of the world who is Christ.  Now how can that not be beautiful, in a world that is full of darkness and despair?

 

A Beautiful Event

It is a beautiful moment in the household.  With my son now actively leading the prayer, it has made our Christmas preparations more meaningful and solemn.  It is a moment when we are all together in prayer (including the household helpers), while the piano top is all lit in Christmas lights.

This year, we hope to include more participants to the activity and include children in the prayers.  It is such a wonderful tradition that makes Christmas more meaningful.

The Advent season will start this Sunday, December 2, and will run for four consecutive Sundays until December 23, the last Sunday before Christmas.