Advent Season Starts
Before we celebrate Christmas, let us first celebrate Advent. The liturgical calendar of the Church marks November 29 as the beginning of the Advent Season.
What is Advent?
The word Advent originates from a Latin word “Adventus” which means “coming” or “arrival.” Advent Season is focused on preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ in all ways, from His birth in the past to His Second Coming in the future as the Messiah.
Advent marks the start of a season of preparation that looks forward to the celebration of Christmas and the second coming of Christ. It is a time of reflection in preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ—we remember how our Savior humbled Himself to be born as a baby and live among those He would save. We remember the perfect life He lived doing the will of His Father, His sacrificial death on the cross, and how He was raised from the dead three days later, having paid the penalty in order to save all who would believe. Christians remember Jesus’ promise to return again one day and restore everything fully. This season invokes feelings of expectation and hope!
The Advent Wreath
The most significant tradition of the Advent season is the Advent Wreath. The wreath and candles are full of symbolism tied to the Christmas season. The wreath itself, which is made of various evergreens, signifies continuous life. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life we find in Christ.
Even the individual evergreens that make up the wreath have their own meanings that can be adapted to our faith. The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering. The pine, holly, and yew signify immortality and the cedar signifies strength and healing. The pine cones that decorate the wreath symbolize life and resurrection. The wreath as a whole is meant to remind us of both the immortality of our souls and God’s promise of everlasting life to us through Christ.
The candles also have their own special significance. The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent, and one candle is lit each Sunday. Three of the candles are purple because the color violet is a liturgical color that signifies a time of prayer, penance, and sacrifice.
The first candle, which is purple, symbolizes hope. It is sometimes called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, especially Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. It represents the expectation felt in anticipation of the coming Messiah.
The second candle, also purple, represents faith. It is called the “Bethlehem Candle” as a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.
The third candle is pink and symbolizes joy. It is called the “Shepard’s Candle,” and is pink because rose is a liturgical color for joy. The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday and is meant to remind us of the joy that the world experienced at the birth of Jesus, as well as the joy that the faithful have reached the midpoint of Advent.
On the fourth week of Advent, we light the final purple candle to mark the final week of prayer and penance as we wait for the birth of our Savior. This final candle, the “Angel’s Candle,” symbolizes peace. It reminds us of the message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”
The Messiah’s Second Coming
For us Catholics, Advent is a meaningful season that reminds us of the reality of Jesus Christ and that He has come and He is present in our world and lives. The birth of Jesus is worth celebrating because it reveals His human side and is therefore an example of how we should live our own lives as his followers here on earth.
Jesus’ ascent into heaven does not mean He has abandoned us. While awaiting His return, we can still experience His presence through the Holy Spirit, our spiritual family which is the church, the sacraments and His Word.
In the Second Coming, Jesus will appear in His full glory and it will perfect and complete our community and identity as His people. It is during this time that we can finally be united with Him and spend eternity with Him in heaven.