Below are articles on spirituality you may find enlightening. These will change regularly according to the liturgical season.
July 7, 2009.
Advent and the Advent Wreath
by Clara Santoro, CSJ .
Daylight grows shorter and darkness lengthens as we approach the Winter Solstice. Then the light of the sun seems to grow stronger and the darkness slowly recedes. The rhythms of nature deeply influence the rhythms of our lives.
These dark days of winter in anticipation of the "rebirth" of the sun were the basis for pagan feasts and rituals, which were later adapted by Christianity. " The Christian word "advent"- adventus- is of pagan origin….Pagans observed a manifestation of the divinity that came to dwell in its temple at a certain time of each year. The feast honoring this divinity was called "adventus."1 Early in the Christian era, this word was used to describe the coming of the Son of God and with the adoption of the Christian feasts, pagan festivals were supplanted and forgotten.
For Christians this season of growing darkness is called Advent. It is a time of approximately four weeks in preparation for the birth of Christ at Christmas and this time includes the solstice and begins the cycle of light over darkness. This year Advent begins on November 30 and ends on Christmas eve.
Eventually, Advent became the season, which opened the liturgical year and kept alive the desire for the coming of Christ and the fulfillment of his work. Advent became a time of hope. The scriptural readings for the season resound with prophetic voices announcing that the Lord is near.
Many customs have developed in the Christian community for the celebration of Advent. Of these, the most important is probably the lighting of the Advent Wreath. The origin of this custom is also found in the folk practices of pre-Christian peoples. During the cold December darkness Germanic peoples
gathered branches of evergreens and lighted fires as symbols of hope for the coming light of springtime. Once again, Christians kept this popular tradition alive and transformed its meaning. By medieval times, Catholics and Protestants throughout Germany used the Advent Wreath to express their hope in Christ
the Light of the World. From Germany the practice spread to other parts of the world.
The Advent Wreath is made of evergreens symbolizing continuous life; the circular form of the wreath, having no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God and everlasting life promised through Christ. The four candles placed in the wreath represent the four weeks of Advent. Three are purple and one is
rose. Each Sunday one candle is lit, the purple ones symbolizing the prayer and penance during this time of preparation and the rose one, lit on the third Sunday, symbolizing the rejoicing because the preparation is half over and Christmas is near.
This tradition helps us to remain focused on the purpose of the pre-Christmas season and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas amid the bustle, tinsel, and commercialism which exploit it.
Days of the Lord: The Liturgical Year, Volume 1, p.24, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville,
"The History of the Advent Wreath," Saunders, Rev. William, Arlington Catholic Herald
Catholic Encyclopedia on Advent, "The Advent Wreath," Catherine Fournier,
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