Anticipation and Hope
Advent is the beginning of the Church’s Year and it starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). When Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent, with Christmas Eve proper beginning at sundown.The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Advent is a season of hopeful anticipation of God’s breaking into our world and our time.
The Colour of Advent
The liturgical colour of Advent is Purple, which is also the colour 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 Atonement. 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.
For the third Sunday of Advent the liturgical colour changes to Rose.
The Advent Wreath
The Advent wreath is a circular evergreen wreath with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the centre. Since the wreath is symbolic and a vehicle to tell the Christmas story, there are various ways to understand the symbolism.
The circle of the wreath reminds us of God Himself, His eternity and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end. The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life. Candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His son. The four outer candles represent the period of waiting during the four Sundays of Advent.
The colours of the candles are three purple candles, corresponding to the sanctuary colours of Advent, and one pink or rose candle. One purple candle is lit on the first Sunday of Advent, a Scripture is read, a short devotional or reading is given, and a prayer offered. On subsequent Sundays, previous candles are re-lighted with an additional one lighted. The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent.
The light of the candles itself becomes an important symbol of the season. The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. The first candle is traditionally the candle of Expectation or Hope The remaining three candles of Advent may be associated with themes for the Sunday Mass.
The third candle for the Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally Pink or Rose, and symbolizes Joy at the Advent of the Christ. The colours of the sanctuary and vestments are also changed to Rose for this Sunday.
The centre candle is white and is called the Christ Candle. It is traditionally lit on Christmas Eve or Day. The central location of the Christ Candle reminds us that the incarnation is the heart of the season, giving light to the world.
All five candles continuing to be lit in services to Epiphany (Jan 6).
Like the Season of Lent there are no flowers decorating the church.