Advent candles

In the Christian tradition, Advent candles are lit on the four Sundays preceding Christmas, representing hope, faith, joy and peace. A white candle, which often is added on Christmas Eve, is a symbol of the purity of Christ.

Advent, which begins the church’s liturgical year, began Nov. 28, 2021. Advent encompasses the four weeks leading up to the celebration of Christmas. The season of Advent, which means “coming,” is observed by many as a time of preparation of hearts and minds for the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas.

Many congregations celebrate Advent by putting up an Advent wreath and lighting candles each week. The use of the wreath and candles during Advent are a longstanding tradition that was originally adopted by Christians in the Middle Ages as part of their spiritual preparation for observing Christ’s birth.

The wreath and candles are full of symbolism tied to the Christmas season. The wreath itself signifies continuous life. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, in the Advent tradition symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul and the everlasting life found in Christ.

The candles also have their own special significance. Often congregations light one candle on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.

The first candle symbolizes hope. It is sometimes called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, especially Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. It represents the expectation felt in anticipation of the coming Messiah.

The second candle represents faith. It is called the “Bethlehem Candle,” as a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.

The third candle symbolizes joy and is called the “Shepherd’s Candle.” The third Sunday of Advent is sometimes referred to as Gaudete Sunday (“gaudete” means “rejoice”). It is meant to be a reminder of the joy that the world experienced at the birth of Jesus.

On the fourth week of Advent, the final candle is lit to mark the final week of prayer and penance as the faithful wait for the Messiah. This final candle, the “Angel’s Candle,” symbolizes peace. It is a symbol of the message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”

Some traditions place a white candle in the middle of the wreath that is lit on Christmas Eve. This candle is called the “Christ Candle” and represents the purity of the life of Christ.

Celebrating the season of Advent is a way to open your mind and heart to welcome the Christ child.

This article was adapted from www.mercyhome.org.

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