The advent wreath is a visible sign of the coming of the invisible God, made flesh in Jesus Christ. It is rich in symbolism and reminds us of the drama of salvation: God’s victory in Christ over sin, darkness, and death through the light, grace and life of the Babe of Bethlehem. The three kings brought the King of kings gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
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The evergreens that make up the wreath represent everlasting life in Christ. The thorns of the holly symbolize the crown of thorns; and the red berries, the precious blood of Jesus shed for our salvation. The laurel is a sign of victory over persecution and suffering; and the pinecones, the resurrection of Jesus.
In the Sacred Scriptures, violet is the color of kings because it was expensive to produce. Violet is the color of the two strong penitential seasons of the church year: Advent and Lent. These penitential seasons of the liturgical year are times of eager anticipation of Christ’s comings: Christmas and Easter. Thus, the color violet calls us to prepare for the coming of the Infant King with prayer and sacrifices and to “repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).
The Advent Wreath is a four-week countdown to Christmas.
The wreath is a reminder of our spiritual and physical preparation, where we strive to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Incarnation of the God-man: Jesus Christ.
During each week of Advent, we light one of the four candles. Blessed candles are sacramentals used to give off a special light and represent the “Light of the World.” Jesus says: “Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16-17). Just as candles give off light, Jesus Christ comes during the darkest time of year, winter, to illuminate our minds. Just as the flame of a candle gives off heat, Jesus comes to give us the fire and warmth of God, the Holy Spirit.
The four candles on the wreath have great meaning. We focus our minds on the Holy Bible and meditate on God’s Truth in order to be set free from the darkness and slavery of sin and to be filled with the power of His love!
Each of the four candles stands for something special:
Violet Prophecy Candle: Hope, anxious expectation for the arrival of Jesus as the prophets, especially Isaiah, foretold.
Violet Bethlehem candle: Faith, commemorating the journey of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to the city of David, Bethlehem.
Rose candle: Joy. This is the midpoint of Advent where, for a day, we take a break from our penance and mortifications.
Violet Angels candle: Peace. Recalling the angels’ announcement: “Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will” (Luke 2:14).
White, some traditions have this white candle, representing Jesus and is lit on Christmas Eve.
The circular shape of the wreath calls to mind the eternity God and that we will live forever. A circle is considered a perfect shape because it has no beginning nor end. God is perfect and His Son said, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13).
May God bless you throughout the Advent season!