The Advent Wreath
“The use of the Advent Wreath is a traditional practice which has found its place in the Church as well as in the home. The blessing of an Advent Wreath takes place on the First Sunday of Advent or on the evening before the First Sunday of Advent. When the blessing of the Advent Wreath is celebrated in the home, it is appropriate that it be blessed by a parent or another member of the family” (USCCB).
– The circular shape: eternity
– The green branches: hope and life
– The candles and flame: light amidst the darkness
“The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and good works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas” (William Saunders; The History of the Advent Wreath).
ADVENT: A TIME FOR HOPE
“Some time ago I saw an eagle shut up in an iron cage. It was dirty, and half its feathers were missing. In its claws was a piece of carrion. I then thought what would happen to me were I to renounce my vocation from God. I felt sorry for that lonely, fettered bird, born to soar the heavens and gaze at the sun. We too can scale the humble heights of love for God, of service to all men. However, in order to do this, we must make sure that our souls have no nooks or crannies into which the light of Jesus Christ cannot shine. And then Christ will be in your mind, on your lips, in your heart, stamped on your deeds. All of your life will be full of God — in its sentiments, its works, its thoughts and its words.
“‘Look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand’… This time of Advent is a time for hope. These great horizons of our Christian vocation, this unity of life built on the presence of God our Father, can and ought to be a daily reality.
“Ask our Lady, along with me, to make it come true. Try to imagine how she spent these months, waiting for her Son to be born. And our Lady, Holy Mary, will make of you alter Christus, ipse Christus: another Christ, Christ himself!”
St. Josemaria Escriva
Christ is Passing By, no. 11
BLESSING OF AN ADVENT WREATH*
The Advent wreath is made of four candles and a circle of branches. Before the first candle is lighted, the household gathers for this blessing.
All make the Sign of the Cross. The leader begins:
Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Who made heaven and earth.
The leader may use these or similar words to introduce the blessing:
In the short days and long nights of Advent,
we realize how we are always needing salvation by our God.
Around this wreath, we shall remember God’s promise.
Then the Scripture is read:
Listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah: 9: 1– 2
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing.
The reader concludes:
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
After a time of silence, all join in prayers of intercession and in the Lord’s Prayer:
Then the leader invites:
Let us now pray for God’s blessing upon us and upon this wreath.
After a short silence, the leader prays:
Lord our God,
we praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ:
he is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples,
he is the wisdom that teaches and guides us,
he is the Savior of every nation.
let your blessing come upon us
as we light the candles of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light
be a sign of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation;
may he come quickly and not delay.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
*Reprinted from the Handbook of Prayers (Seventh American Edition, 2011), © Midwest Theological Forum. Content may not be reprinted or published without permission. To order a copy visit www.theologicalforum.org.