From the fourth Sunday before Christmas we celebrate the season of Advent, the time of expectant faith as we await the birth of Jesus Christ.

Originally, Advent was a period of fasting during which people's thoughts were directed to the expected second coming of Christ; but in modern times it has been seen as the lead up to Christmas, and in that context an Advent wreath serves as a reminder of the approach of the feast.

The Advent wreath is usually a horizontal evergreen wreath with four candles. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading and prayers. An additional candle is lit each week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit. This custom is observed in family settings and at Masses.

Typically there are three purple candles and one rose candle. The purple candles, taking the colour once associated with royalty, symbolise Christ as the "Prince of Peace" and are used for Weeks 1, 2 and 4. The rose candle, for Gaudete Sunday, Week 3, denotes a week of extra joy. Gaudete comes from the Latin word "rejoice”. Gaudete Sunday anticipates the joy of the Christmas celebration, so its colour is a mixture of Advent purple and Christmas white.

There is often also a fifth candle (white) in the wreath. It is the “Christ" candle which can be lit at Christmas.

Photo by F Wilkinson

14 October 2019

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