The Meaning of a Traditional Advent Wreath
As a convert to Catholicism I wanted to bring as much liturgical traditions into my family’s life as possible. One of those traditions was the displaying of an Advent Wreath, but as I investigated ways to incorporate this into our Advent season, I found the beauty & purpose at the center of this tradition, the preparation of our hearts for the first coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The preperation for Christmas extends way beyond Advent and is even significant for our daily lives.
Parts of an Advent Wreath
The traditional Advent Wreath consists of a wreath of evergreen branches with 4 candles placed around the circle or within the circle. The circle is a symbol of immortality of the soul and everlasting life in Christ.
The wreath can be made of one or more evergreens:
Laurel- victory over persecution and suffering.
Pine, Holly, and Yew- immortality.
Cedar- strength and healing.
Holly has significant meaning in the Christian faith with the prickly leaves reminding us of the crown of thorns. An old English legend tells of how the cross was made of holly.
There are 4 candles 3 Purple and 1 Rose and then some put a white candle in the center of the wreath.
Each candle holds its own significance and then together symbolize the light in the darkness.
The 1st, 2nd and 4th candles stand for Faith, Hope and Love and the 3rd rose candle stands for Joy and is lite on Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, so called for the first word of the Introit at Mass (Gaudete, i.e. Rejoice).
Another candle of White can be placed in the center of the Advent Wreath, or in a window, and is be lite on Christmas Eve in anticipation for Christ’s coming, as the Light that pierces the darkness of our world.
As we light each candle to mark each Sunday of Advent, we recite prayers and readings from scripture that take us through the story of Christs birth and ask God to make our hearts ready to receive the Greatest Gift of Christmas, JESUS!
After Christmas the lessons from the Advent wreath do not end. Every day is like a little Advent. The preparation of our hearts continues as we remember Christs promise to come again in Glory on the last day. As Catholics we also receive the most special grace of Christ in the Eucharist. As often as we eat of this bread, we proclaim the death of Lord and profess His resurrection. As the bride awaits her groom in the bed chamber, we await our Lord. May the Lord find us with our lamps lite when He comes.
Article written by Latrell Castanon for Christian Catholic Media
Latrell Castanon is a freelance writer who studied Catholic Theology at St. Joseph's College of Maine.