The Advent wreath is a circular bough of evergreen branches with four or five candles within it.
The Advent wreath was originally a sun symbol in pre-Christian Celtic and Germanic cultures. This symbolism was adopted and adapted by the Church to represent Christ the “light of the world” (John 8:12) and our “Sun of righteousness.” (Malachi 4:1-3).
It is in the shape of a circle, a shape with no beginning and no end, representing the eternity of God entering our time and world with the coming of Jesus Christ.
Unlike other trees that lose their leaves and appear to die in winter, the evergreen remains verdantly alive all year. The evergreen of the wreath symbolizes eternal life through the incarnate Son of God.
The four candles on the wreath are lit each Sunday of Advent to mark the approach of Christmas. They are purple or blue, the traditional colour of royalty, in anticipation of the advent of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Each candle represents a prophet or prophesy foretelling of the coming of the awaited Messiah. The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday and has a rose coloured candle. Gaudete is Latin for “rejoice!” The scripture readings of the day are full of encouragement and rejoicing at the coming of our salvation in Christ’s birth.
On Christmas Eve, a large white candle is placed in the centre of the Advent wreath to symbolize the birth of Christ. Throughout the twelve days of Christmas (Christmas to the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6), the purple candles can be replaced with white ones to symbolize that through Christ’s birth the radiant light of his love fills the world.
Article by Dean Rose.
Permission is granted to use and replicate this or parts of this article with the following ascription;
From an article by Dean Rose, St. Peter’s Church, Oshawa, Diocese of Toronto.