When we have a big celebration coming up, we prepare very carefully: cleaning, decorating, preparing the food, hanging the lights… We do all this because we want our guests to feel happy in our home and that they are able to see, in every detail, the love we have for them and how happy it makes us to count with their presence.
Advent is a time that gives us the opportunity to prepare ourselves to be the best hosts for Jesus, the Incarnate Word when He comes next Christmas. The Latin word “adventus” means “arrival”.
It is a period of four weeks during which we are invited to prepare our hearts to celebrate the arrival of Our Lord with hope and joy. This year, Advent begins today, December 2nd and it ends on December 24th.
During this period, as a symbol of our commitment to practice virtue and to clean our hearts, we place crowns with four candles in the churches and in our homes. The circle of green branches symbolizes the constant love of God and the immortality of the soul. The crown also has three purple candles and one pink candle. On Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day, one may light a fifth candle, a white candle in the center of the crown.
There are small cultural variations in the specific symbolism of each one of the candles. However, in general, it is accepted that the first candle is lit in a solemn and sober environment, recognizing there is a path to follow so that our heart is prepared for the great celebration of the Birth of Christ. During this first week, we are invited to reflect on the Coming of Christ at the end of times and to live a conversion, seeking – primarily – forgiveness and harmony with our neighbor.
The second week invites us to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and reassert our hope. The light of the second candle reminds us that He will come to bring light to our hearts and to make us aware of the presence of God in our lives. It helps us reflect that in order to receive Christ, we also need to receive His forgiveness and His grace.
The pink candle, which is lit on the third week, joins the purple of the time of vigil with the white of the coming of Jesus. It is used as a symbol of the joy we feel when we know that the Lord is nearer as time goes by.
The fourth candle leads us to think of how, little by little, Jesus is making the distances shorter, by becoming human and coming into our lives in order to allow us to fight against evil and darkness.
Lastly, the white candle reminds us that Christ is the Light of the world and fills our lives with light through his love and mercy.
This Advent, let us take the opportunity to do penance, strengthen our spiritual life, and share the hope of the Second Coming of Christ with those around us. In a few words, let us live a profound and intense experience of coming close to God, renewing His Kingdom among us.