Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Advent Wreath

During the cold December darkness of  eastern Europe, pre-Christian Germanic peoples gathered boughs of evergreen and lit fires as a sign of hope in a coming spring and the renewing of light.

By the middle ages German Christians adapted the tradition of  forming an evergreen wreath  and lighting candles as part of their spiritual preparation for Advent. The lighting of the Candles symbolized. Christ as the "light that came into the world" to dispel the darkness of sin bring Gods truth, light and love into the world (Jn. 3:19-21).

By the 16th century Lutheran's throughout Germany had  these symbols to celebrate their Advent hope in Christ, the everlasting Light. From  Germany the tradition spread to Scadinavia and then on the rest of Protestant Europe. In time Catholic Europe adapted the Advent wreath a well. 

The four candles represented the four weeks of Advent. Three candles were purple and one candle was rose.This is the color of penitence and fasting as well as the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King.  The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week.  This points to an important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the "Word made flesh" and dwelling among us, is to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection.

To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent and so shared the color of Lent. In the four weeks of Advent the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing (in some traditions it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for "rejoice"). The shift from the purple of the Season to pink or rose for the third Sunday Advent candle reflected this lessening emphasis on penitence as attention turned more to celebration of the season.

Each day at home, the candles are lite, perhaps before the evening meal or before bed-- one candle the first week, and then another each succeeding week until December 25th. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding  Christ first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming

A short prayer may accompany the lighting of the candles. Mary and i recite the short Celtic Advent Liturgy as we light the candle each evening.

Some modern day adaptions 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 one rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season.

the grapics is of a  modern celtic advent wreath  a fresh evergreen advent wreath

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