Symbolism of the Advent wreath an invitation to celebrate – Timesherald

The Advent wreath is a long-standing Christian tradition that marks the four weeks leading up to the celebration of Christmas. However, the origins of the Advent wreath are mysterious. Pre-Christian German peoples lit candles on wreaths during the coldest and darkest days of December as a sign of hope to pray for future warmth and the prolonged sunny days of spring. In Scandinavia, lighted candles were placed on a wheel and prayers were recited to the “god of light” to bring “the wheel” back to the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth. In the Middle Ages, the Church had adapted this tradition and used Advent wreaths as a spiritual preparation for Christmas since Christ is “the light that came into the world” (John 3:19) to dispel the darkness of sin. . In the 16th century, the use of the crown was adopted by the Catholic and Lutheran churches.

Reverend Gus Puleo, pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Norristown. (File photo)

Since Advent is closely linked to the birth of Christ, it should be recognized as an important joyous holiday different from Christmas. The word “advent” comes from the Latin “adventus” which means “to come”. During this season, we look forward to the coming of Jesus at Christmas, but also to his second coming. In our modern world, Advent is a forgotten season since Christmas is celebrated so early in our consumerist world starting as early as “Christmas in July” and also Christmas bargains as early as before Thanksgiving. However, Advent is a very powerful and important season to celebrate joyfully with the wonderful and meaningful Advent wreath.

There is great symbolism found in the Advent wreath. The circular shape of the crown which has no beginning or end and the conifers that make up the crown signify the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul and eternal life in Jesus Christ. The laurel on conifers signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine and holly represent immortality and cedar points to strength and healing. The spiky leaves recall the crown of thorns and an English legend tells how the cross was made of holly. The pine cones that decorate the crown symbolize life and resurrection. In summary, the crown signifies the immortality of our soul, the resurrection and new eternal life with God in heaven.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition has it that each candle represents a thousand years, to sum up the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the birth of Jesus Christ. Three candles are purple and one is pink. Purple candles symbolize prayer, penance and the sacrifices and good works done during this time. The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest wears pink vestments to mass. It is a Sunday of joy and happiness as we are halfway through the season, closer and closer to the birth of Our Saviour. The Latin word “Gaudete” translates into English as “to rejoice”. The gradual lighting of the candles symbolizes the hope surrounding the birth of our Lord and the anticipation of his second coming to judge us all. Some modern adaptations include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and pink candles with four white candles at Christmas, and they will all be lit throughout the Christmas season, representing Christ as the Light of the world.

The next time we look at the lighted candles on the Advent wreath, we should remember the invitation to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ at Christmas and for his second coming for we should be filled with joy and hope since “Jesus, the true light, which enlightens everyone, is coming into the world” (John 1:9).

Rev. Gus Puleo is pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Norristown and is director of the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He graduated from Norristown High School and attended Georgetown University, where he earned a BA and BS in Spanish and Linguistics. He holds master’s degrees in Spanish, linguistics, and theology from Middlebury College, Georgetown University, and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He holds a doctorate. in Spanish from the University of Pennsylvania.

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