The Advent wreath is a common Catholic symbol of the season and it represents the time we spend in preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. Each Sunday in Advent a new Candle is lit, marking the passage of time until Christmas.
An Advent wreath is usually fashioned with evergreen boughs, bent into a circle, representing the eternal nature of God and our life in Christ. It has four candles, three purple and one pink or rose candle. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday in Advent, also known as “Gaudete Sunday.” This Sunday is a special day of celebration because we turn from penance to celebration in anticipation of Christmas.
The three purple candles symbolize penance. They are also the color of royalty. Advent is supposed to be a time of preparation, including prayer, fasting and reconciliation.
Each Sunday a new candle is lit, with the rose candle lit third. On the first Sunday, only one candle is lit for that day and the week to come. Beginning on the second Sunday, two purple candles are lit for the second week. In the third week, two purple candles and one rose are lit. On the fourth Sunday until Christmas, all four candles are lit.
Many Advent wreaths are decorated further with seeds and pine cones, representing resurrection – new life. On Christmas, the candles on the Advent wreath are replaced with four white candles for the four Sundays of the Christmas season. A new wreath may be made.
Prayer for the blessing of an advent wreath: Blessed are you, O Lord our God, king of the universe. You sent your Son to be the Light of the world and to spread his light of love to all. Bless us and accept + these wreaths of light made from our hands. May their ever increasing brightness be a sign to us of the approaching nearness of your Son, that we might prepare in joy for his humble birth in a manger and be ready to receive him at his coming again in glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.