Advent- The Importance of the Candles

Written by Mia Santucci

Every year, near the end of November, the season of Advent begins. A season that is celebrated collectively as a school community, and as a parish. However, the true meaning of Advent is often lost, forgotten about, or not truly acknowledged. As the Advent season is currently in progress, what better time to learn about its history and true meaning?

The word Advent stems from the Latin word “Adventus”, which translates to “The coming of Jesus”. It is a period of time designated to reflect upon the love of God that is poured out through Jesus Christ. It is used to get into the right mindset about the true meaning of Christmas. Advent consists of four consecutive Sundays, lasting from the last week of November until the week before Christmas; not on Christmas day, as that is a common misconception. Advent serves as a direct contrast to Easter, which is celebrated during the second part of the year, recognizing Jesus’ death. In both holidays, the colour purple is very prominent throughout, as it historically symbolizes royalty and was the most expensive colour to dye clothes with as the ingredients for purple dye were very rare and hard to come by. Purple vestments are worn by priests during the Advent season. 

As Advent is celebrated during four Sundays, each week is represented by a candle on the advent wreath. Additionally, each candle/week signifies a different emotion and message. While the order of the candles may vary depending on the diocese and parish, the meanings and emotions connected to them remain the same throughout. 

The first week of Advent is Hope. Sometimes referred to as the “Prophecy candle”, the candle of hope displays the desire that God will fulfill his promises about Jesus in the Old Testament. It is a time used to anticipate Christ’s arrival, and hope that God’s prophecy comes true. The candle of hope is represented by the colour purple, and as previously mentioned, symbolizes royalty and God’s kingship. 

The second week of Advent is Faith. The candle of faith is also called the “Bethlehem candle”, as it represents the foretelling that Jesus will be born in Bethlehem. Additionally, it represents Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and continues to be regarded as preparation for Jesus’ birth. The candle of faith is represented by a purple candle symbolizing seriousness and repentance. 

The third week of Advent is Joy. This candle and week are slightly different from the rest. The candle of Joy is also called the “Shepherd’s candle” and has roots in what is referred to as the “Gaudete Sunday”, gaudete meaning rejoice. Furthermore, it is represented by a pink candle. The third week of Advent differs from the previous themes of repentance and solemnity, and instead rejoices in the fact that the coming of Jesus is not very far away. Think of it like someone suddenly realizing that a very exciting thing is right around the corner and it’s hard to contain excitement, like a birthday or a highly anticipated new movie. This third week is meant to be happy and celebratory. It also signifies the joy the shepherds feel when hearing the news about Jesus. On this Gaudete Sunday, priests will wear pink vestments and often churches will be decorated pink. 

The fourth week of Advent is Peace OR Love. This fourth candle is also called the “Angel Candle,” representing purity and the angels proclaiming the good news about Jesus. It symbolizes Mary’s motherly love for Jesus, Joseph’s unconditional love and support for Mary despite Jesus not being his biological child, and Jesus’ later teachings about love. It also represents a sense of calm and peace as the coming of Jesus is getting closer and closer. The candle of peace/love is represented by a purple candle, signifying a return to purity and gravitas of the preparation for Jesus’ birth. 

Finally, the last candle. Some churches may choose to include the Christ Candle, a candle in the center of the advent wreath. The candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas day, and is typically white to symbolize Christ’s purity and blamelessness. The Christ candle represents the role Jesus played in the Christmas story, and symbolizes the light he brought into the world as a baby. 

To conclude, the Roman Catholic season of Advent is steeped with thoughtful meanings and teachings which everyone could learn something new from, no matter who you are or what you celebrate. The Advent season portrays the true meaning behind Christmas. 

Sources

Mazza, EliseAdvent- The Importance of the Candles