As we embrace this Holy Season of Advent, it is important to remind ourselves of: the meaning, the history, the liturgical colors, the advent wreath and its candles, and the relevancy of the Advent Season to us Christians.
The term “advent” is derived from the Latin “adventus”, which means “coming”. So, advent prepares us for the coming two-fold celebration of the remembrance of the First Coming of Jesus Christ to us at Christmas, and the joyful anticipation of his Second Coming in clouds, as the judge of the world.
During the 4th and 5th centuries, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas. Advent was rather a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th, which is the celebration of God’s Incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the Baby Jesus (Mt2:1). By the 6th century, however, Christians had tied advent to the Second Coming of Christ in glory. But it was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent Season was explicitly linked to Christ’s First Coming in the manger in Bethlehem. Today, Advent begins on Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year. The Season of Advent lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas. The first two Sundays in Advent (through December 16th) look forward to Christ’s second coming, and the last two Sundays (December 17th-24th), look backward to remembering Christ’s First Coming at Christmas.
The Advent Liturgical Colors
Purple or violet or blue, and Rose or Pink, are the liturgical colors recommended for advent. These colors symbolize humility or penance, and joy, respectively.
The Advent Wreath
The Advent wreath is created in evergreen branches to symbolize Eternal Life. The circle reminds us of our Infinite God, Who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
The Advent Candles
The Four candles of the Advent Wreath represent respectively, the virtues of: hope, love, joy, and peace, that Christ our Savior, brings. The first, second, and fourth candles are purple in color. The third candle is rose or pink. Occasionally, a fifth white candle (Christ’s candle), is placed in the middle of the advent wreath, and is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day representing Christ our Light.
The Christian Relevancy of Advent
Just as the Israelites in the Promised Land looked back time and again to God’s intervention during the Exodus days and called upon God to act on their behalf, in the same way, Christians, during Advent, look back upon Christ’s First Coming in the manger, and at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to his Second Coming in glory to consummate his Eternal Kingdom. Each year the Church celebrates the liturgy of advent, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah. By sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s First Coming, we renew our ardent desire for his Second Coming. The advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, perfectly describes the Church’s great anticipation and joyful expectation, that is; “Christ has come, and Christ will come again”. (Acts 2:17; Heb 1:2). Therefore, our exile in the present to sins of greed, violence, hatred, abortion, prejudice, racism, sexual abuse, injustices, idolatry, should make us look forward to our exodus in need of God’s mercy and sanctifying grace, so the Holy Spirit, may conform us into the image of Christ. Advent is not about shopping, decorations, lights, and joyful carols, but rather a season of penance, prayer, and fasting, much like Lent. In short, Advent is a time to cry out to God to renew the face of the earth.
May God bless you!