Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas and the return of Jesus at the Second Coming. The term is a version of the Latin word meaning “coming”.
The Symbols of Advent
In its symbolism, the church continues to stress the penitential and preparatory nature of Advent. As during Lent, priests wear purple vestments, and the Gloria (“Glory to God”) is omitted during Mass. The only exception is on the Third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday, when priests can wear rose-colored vestments. As on Laetare Sunday during Lent, this exception is designed to encourage us to continue our prayer and fasting, because we can see that Advent is more than halfway over.
The Advent Wreath
Perhaps the best-known of all Advent symbols is the Advent wreath, a custom that originated among German Lutherans but was soon adopted by Catholics. Consisting of four candles (three purple or blue and one pink) arranged in a circle with evergreen boughs (and often a fifth, white candle in the center), the Advent wreath corresponds to the four Sundays of Advent. The purple or blue candles represent the penitential nature of the season, while the pink candle calls to mind the respite of Gaudete Sunday. The white candle, when used, represents Christmas.