2ndWednesday of Advent
- · Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
- · Today in Catholic History
- · Catholic Apologetics
- · A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
- · Reflection on article of the OFS Rule
Today, I will bring to you the origins of, traditions of, and reasons for using the:
“The Advent Wreath”
The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future for the warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia, during winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light so this god would turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun in order to lengthen the days and restore warmth.
In the “Middle Ages”, Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. After all, Christ is “the light come into the world” (John 3:19), dispelling the darkness of sin and radiating the truth and love of God to all. By 1600, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath at Christmas time.
The symbolism of the Advent wreath is indeed spiritually beautiful. The wreath is made of various evergreens, themselves signifying continuous life. These various evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted in our faith: The laurels signify victory over persecution and suffering, with pine, holly, and yew, pointing toward immortality; and cedar aimed at strength and healing.
Holly, in addition, has a unique Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of Christ’s crown of thorns. One English legend even tells us of the cross being made of holly wood (not from California). The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also reinforce the symbolization of life and resurrection.
So, all together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul AND the new, everlasting life promised to us through Jesus Christ, the eternal living “Word” of God the Father, who entered our world becoming true man, and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.
The ring of the Advent wreath – – decorated with candles – – was a symbol in northern Europe long before the arrival of Christianity to its shores. Though some sources suggest the wreath was in common use in the Middle Ages, others say that it was established in Germany as a Christian custom only in the 16th century. Regardless of the origin, Roman Catholics in Germany began to adopt the custom in the 1920s, and in the 1930s it spread to North America among the German immigrants.
The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. I personally know of three separate traditions involving the lighting of these candles to represent eras of our faith, and the individual meanings of each candle. If you know of others, please let me know.
One tradition is that each week (and its candle) represents one thousand years, the sum of years – – 4,000 – – from Adam and Eve until the Birth of our Savior.
Another similar type of tradition has each candle representing a separate era of Christianity: the first being the era before Christ; the second candle being the 33 year era of Christ’s physical human/divine presence on earth; the third “rose” colored candle representing Christ’s continual loving and merciful presence with each of us until the end of time, which is itself represented by the fourth candle signifying the awaiting of the Parousia.
Finally, in this third separate tradition:
- The first purple candle lit (1st week) is called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets – – primarily Isaiah – – who foretold the birth of Christ; thus representing hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.
- The second purple candle represents “love”, and is called the “Bethlehem Candle”, symbolizing Christ’s manger.
- The third rose-colored candle is customarily called the “Shepherds Candle” and it represents joy.
- The fourth and last purple candle, called the “Angels Candle,” represents “peace”.
In the Catholic Church, the most popular colors for the Advent candle theme are undeniably the colors “purple” and “rose”, corresponding with the colors of the liturgical vestments for the four Sundays of Advent. Thus, three candles are purple, and one is rose.
Purple is the traditional color of penitential seasons, with the purple candles symbolizing the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken during the Advent Season.
Rose is the color for the third Sunday of Advent, known as “Gaudete Sunday”, a Latin word meaning “to rejoice” – – and is taken from the first line of the traditional entrance prayer (called the Introit) for the Mass of the third Sunday of Advent. Rose-colored vestments, worn by the priest at Mass on this day, are a symbol of rejoicing because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and we are ever-so-much closer to Christmas.
A variation of the Advent wreath adds a white candle in the center to symbolize the “Christ Candle“. White is the traditional color of “purity” in the Western church. Jesus Christ is the sinless, spotless, and the pure Messiah Savior. In addition, those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, are washed clean of their sins and made whiter than snow.
The progressive lighting of the candles from week to week symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world AND the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead. This “light” from the candles, as a whole, signifies Christ, the “Light of the world”.
Since Advent is a time to stir our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the wreath and its associated prayers provide us a great way to augment our special preparations for Christmas. Moreover, this good symbolic tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our preparations, not losing sight of the TRUE meaning of Christmas (CHRISTinMASS).
Information taken from the following sites:
† 1098 – First Crusade: Massacre of Ma’arrat al-Numan – Crusaders breach the town’s walls and massacre about 20,000 inhabitants. After finding themselves with insufficient food, they resort to cannibalism.
† 1212 – Death of Geoffrey, Archbishop of York
† 1524 – Pope Clement VII approves Organization of Jewish Community of Rome
† 1610 – Birth of Saint Vasilije (d. 1671), AKA:Saint Basil of Ostrog, a Serbian Saint venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
† 1769 – Pope Clement XIV proclaims a universal jubilee
† 1779 – Birth of Madeleine Sophie Barat, French saint (d. 1865)
† 2003 – Death of Joseph Anthony Ferrario, American Catholic prelate (b. 1926), the third bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu.
† 2008 – Death of Avery Dulles, Roman Catholic Cardinal, Theologian (b. 1918)
† Feasts/Memorials: Mexico – Our Lady of Guadalupe Day
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
“Today in Catholic History”
My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church. Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit who inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.
Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral. Oral tradition includes written forms. After all, it ALL started with oral tradition. Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Laying on of hands for healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.
All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
Christ’s Divinity, Part 2:
“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’” (John 8:58). RSV
“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58). KJV
“I and the Father are one“ (John 10:30). RSV
“I and my Father are one.”(John 10:30). KJV
“For in Him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily“ (Colossians 2:9). RSV
“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9). KJV
A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: Our Lady of Guadalupe
The feast in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe goes back to the 16th century. Chronicles of that period tell us the story.
A poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name Juan Diego. He was a 57-year-old widower and lived in a small village near Mexico City. On Saturday morning, December 9, 1531, he was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady.
He was walking by a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music like the warbling of birds. A radiant cloud appeared and within it a young Native American maiden dressed like an Aztec princess. The lady spoke to him in his own language and sent him to the bishop of Mexico, a Franciscan named Juan de Zumarraga. The bishop was to build a chapel in the place where the lady appeared.
Eventually the bishop told Juan Diego to have the lady give him a sign. About this same time Juan Diego’s uncle became seriously ill. This led poor Diego to try to avoid the lady. The lady found Diego, nevertheless, assured him that his uncle would recover and provided roses for Juan to carry to the bishop in his cape or tilma.
When Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground and the bishop sank to his knees. On Juan Diego’s tilma appeared an image of Mary exactly as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac. It was December 12, 1531.
Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego as one of his people is a powerful reminder that Mary and the God who sent her accept all peoples. In the context of the sometimes rude and cruel treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards, the apparition was a rebuke to the Spaniards and an event of vast significance for Native Americans. While a number of them had converted before this incident, they now came in droves. According to a contemporary chronicler, nine million Indians became Catholic in a very short time. In these days when we hear so much about God’s preferential option for the poor, Our Lady of Guadalupe cries out to us that God’s love for and identification with the poor is an age-old truth that stems from the Gospel itself.
Mary to Juan Diego: “My dearest son, I am the eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, Author of Life, Creator of all and Lord of the Heavens and of the Earth … and it is my desire that a church be built here in this place for me, where, as your most merciful Mother and that of all your people, I may show my loving clemency and the compassion that I bear to the Indians, and to those who love and seek me…” (from an ancient chronicle).
Patron Saint of: Americas, Mexico, Phillipnes
Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)
12. Witnessing to the good yet to come and obligated to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.
13. As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.
A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.