The meaning of the Advent wreath and candles.
Darkness and Light
The Advent candles readily demonstrate the strong contrast between darkness and light. In the Bible, Christ is referred to as the “Light of the World” contrasted with the darkness of sin. Human history spanned long ages before our prophesied Savior would finally make his appearance, and God’s promise to make all things new through him.
As his Advent, or “coming,” draws nearer another candle is lit, with each candle dispelling the darkness a little more. Thus, the Advent wreath helps us to spiritually contemplate the great drama of salvation history that surrounds the birth of God Incarnate who comes to redeem the human race.
The Four Weeks of Advent
During the first two weeks of Advent we light the first two purple candles. The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. On this day we celebrate that our waiting for the birth of Jesus on Christmas day is almost over. Rose is a liturgical color that is used to signify joy, so we light the single pink candle on the third Sunday of Advent.
Then on the fourth Sunday of Advent, the final purple candle is lit to mark the final week of prayer and penance as we wait expectantly for the soon-coming birth of the King of Kings.
Traditionally, each of the four Advent candles have a deeper meaning
- The 1st Sunday of Advent symbolizes Hope with the “Prophet’s Candle” reminding us that Jesus is coming.
- The 2nd Sunday of Advent symbolizes Faith with the “Bethlehem Candle” reminding us of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.
- The 3rd Sunday of Advent symbolizes Joy with the “Shepherd’s Candle” reminding us of the Joy the world experienced at the coming birth of Jesus.
- The 4th Sunday of Advent symbolizes Peace with the “Angel’s Candle” reminding us of the message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”
Violet is a liturgical color that is used to signify a time of prayer, penance, and sacrifice and is used during Advent and Lent. Advent, also called “little Lent,” is the season where we spiritually wait in our “darkness” with hopeful expectation for our promised redemption, just as the whole world did before Christ’s birth, and just as the whole world does now as we eagerly await his promised return.