Yuletide Trivia: ADVENT SEASON

It’s my time to write the trivia here in my blog about the Liturgical Meaning of Advent including the Advent Wreath.

What is the meaning of “Advent?”

The word “advent,” from the Latin adventus (Greek parousia), means “coming” or “arrival.” The season of Advent is focused on the “coming” of Jesus as Messiah (Christ or King). Our worship, scripture readings, and prayers not only prepare us spiritually for Christmas (his first coming), but also for his eventual second coming. This is why the Scripture readings during Advent include both Old Testament passages related to the expected Messiah, and New Testament passages concerning Jesus’ Second Coming as judge of all people. Also, passages about John the Baptist, the precursor who prepared the way for the Messiah, are read. All of these themes are present in Catholic worship during Advent, which The Catechism succinctly describes:

“When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (524).

Since Advent looks forward to Christ’s birth and Incarnation, it is an appropriate way to begin the Church Year. However, Advent is not part of the Christmas season itself, but a preparation for it (before Christmas season). Thus, Catholics do not sing Christmas hymns, or use Christmas readings, (it will be used) in Mass until December 25th, the first day of the Christmas season.

The liturgical color for Advent is violet (except for the Third Week of Advent, often called Gaudete Sunday, in which rose may be used), and the season is somewhat penitential, similar to Lent, although not so explicit and emphatic. The character of worship during Advent is more solemn, quiet, and less festive than during other times of the year. In the Catholic Church, for example, the Gloria in Excelsis is not used. The use of violet reflects the general themes of Advent: penitence (generally expressed more in terms of expectant hope) and royalty. Some prominent feasts fall within the Season of Advent, including the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Secular culture and many non-Catholic churches celebrate the day of Christmas, but take it outside of the context of Advent and Christmastide. However, Christmas is not meant to be an isolated day, but a festival of the Incarnation in the midst of the Church year. Christmas is only properly understood after having the preparation provided by Advent. In the midst of the secular excesses leading up to Christmas, Advent provides a welcome solace and an opportunity to continually re-orient ourselves to God’s will as we expectantly wait with patriarchs, prophets, and kings for the true meaning of Christmas: the Incarnation of God the Son.

– Excerpts from http://www.churchyear.net/advent.html

The Liturgical Meaning of Advent Wreath

The Advent wreath was likely first used as a Christian devotion in the Middle Ages. The design was borrowed from the customs of pre-Christian (primarily Germanic and Scandinavian) peoples, who used candles and greenery (often paired together) as symbols during the dark and dead winter, to represent light and life. The Advent Wreath is a circular evergreen wreath with four or five candles, three purple, one rose, and (if you use the five-candle model), a white one for Christmas Day. If used, the white candle is placed in the center.

Some Protestant traditions have been using 4 blue candles recently. However, Catholics still use the traditional colors because they dually symbolize both royalty and penitence, two important Advent themes. A wreath may be hand-crafted of real or artificial materials, or may be purchased at craft and candle stores. The candles symbolize the light of Christ coming into the world. The evergreen symbolizes renewal in Christ, the kind of renewal hoped for by those before Christ’s first coming, and the ultimate renewal we long for in Christ’s second coming. The circular shape symbolizes the completeness of God. It is likely the symbolism came after the actual wreath was conceived of, but that does not detract from the power of the symbols.

The candle colors are derived from the traditional liturgical colors of Advent and Christmas, purple and white respectively. The rose color likely is derived from an old Catholic custom of wearing rose colored vestments on the third Sunday in Advent (and fourth Sunday in Lent), called Gaudete Sunday, i.e. “Rejoice Sunday.” Each candle is first lit on the appropriate Sunday of Advent, and then the candles may be lit each day as a part of the individual or family’s daily prayers. Certain candles have been given various names.

Some systems name the candle as follows:
Candle 1. Hope (purple)
Candle 2. Peace (purple)
Candle 3. Joy (rose; the corresponding Sunday is “Gaudete Sunday”)
Candle 4. Love (purple)
Candle 5. Christ (white)

Others do it like this:
Candle 1. Patriarchs
Candle 2. Prophets
Candle 3. John the Baptist
Candle 4. Mary the mother of Jesus.
Candle 5. Christ the light of the world

Either way can be helpful for celebrating the true meaning of Advent. If you do not wish to use either taxonomy, simply praying the prayers we have listed below as you light the candles, and then reflecting on the scriptures is the best way to proceed. Since the Advent Wreath is a devotion, there are a variety of ways to make use of it, and we encourage you to develop your own customs and prayers if you wish, based in Scripture and Church Tradition. The service we provide below is a good guide to get you started, and can be expanded upon. You may choose to light the wreath only on Sundays, however some families light the wreath daily to more fully celebrate Advent. Many Catholics and non-Catholics like to get their wreaths blessed by a priest before using them.

– Courtesy of  http://www.churchyear.net/adventwreath.html

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