Recently a friend suggested I write an article about Advent here. Honestly, my first reaction was to think I talk about Advent regularly in my Sunday homilies that are posted on this blog. (You can find them at http://blog.renewaloffaith.org/blog/?cat=223.)
You can also find an article I wrote on the liturgical year in general, including one paragraph on Advent at http://www.renewaloffaith.org/the-liturgical-year.html. Is there something more to be said?
Still, while there is already material on my blog and website, that doesn’t preclude me from writing something now. So, today I offer two ideas on Advent.
The first idea involves why we can benefit from having the season of Advent. As I often say in my homilies, the word “advent” means “coming.” Our readings during our Advent season invite us to reflect on the significance of the first coming of Jesus that we will celebrate at Christmas and to ask ourselves if we are prepared for the Second Coming of Jesus.
Of course, we can do this at anytime of the year but do we? We might have good intentions to always be prepared for the Second Coming of Jesus. However, the reality often is, if we are not reminded to prepare ourselves, we slack off. If we slack off, we probably aren’t ready. We look forward to our celebration of the first coming of Jesus at Christmas. It is a good time to focus, to prepare ourselves for the Second Coming. You can find more about Advent as a season and why Jesus became Incarnate at his first coming in my presentation, Advent Preparing for the Incarnation.
That’s my first idea for today on Advent. My second idea is to talk briefly about the origin and symbolism of the Advent Wreath.
According to Ann Ball in her book, A Handbook of Catholic Sacramentals (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division. 1991), “The Advent wreath is a Lutheran custom which originated in eastern Germany a few hundred years ago” (67).
She says, “The wreath, an ancient symbol of victory, symbolizes the fulfillment of time in the coming of Christ and the glory of His birth” (68).
Normally, the Advent wreath is displayed on a table, although in churches sometimes it is suspended from the ceiling. It is often used in churches but can also be used at home as part of the family praying together.
It normally includes evergreen branches as seen in Christmas trees. The use of “evergreen” serves as a symbol of everlasting life.
The Advent wreath uses four candles, marking the passing of the four weeks of Advent. Three of the candles are violet, reminding us that the liturgical color for the season of Advent is violent. Historically, violent is a color symbolizes penance for our sins. Advent is a penitential time as we repent of our sins to prepare the way of the Lord.
The remaining candle is rose. It is a color symbolizes warmth and rejoicing. The rose candle represents the Third Sunday of Advent known as Gaudete Sunday. “Gaudete” means “rejoice”. We may be saddened by the realization that we have sinned but we rejoice that Jesus comes to save us from our sins.
The lighting of the candles served a functional purpose before electricity to provide light in churches but the light is also right in symbolism as Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12). Jesus brings light to the darkness. Thank you Jesus!
There is also a secular symbolism to candles that is relevant for our use of candles. Ball says, “Carrying tapers was one sign of respect for the high dignitaries of the Roman Empire” (192). Jesus is the Light of the World. He is also our king. He is greater than any earthly king. He is a great “dignitary” for all who believe in him.
So, that’s my thoughts on Advent for today.