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Advent Season

Advent Wreath | Advent Collects | In Advent - Directory Popular Piety | "Come, Lord Jesus" | Christmas Novena

In Advent, Christians relive a dual impulse of the spirit:  on the one hand, they raise their eyes towards the final destination of their pilgrimage through history, which is the glorious return of the Lord Jesus; on the other, remembering with emotion his birth in Bethlehem, they kneel before the Crib.

The hope of Christians is turned to the future but remains firmly rooted in an event of the past. In the fullness of time, the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary:  "Born of a woman, born under the law", as the Apostle Paul writes (Gal 4: 4).

-- Pope Benedict XVI -
First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2005

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The Advent Wreath

The Advent Wreath, a venerable European tradition, can be a way to involve even very little children in learning about Christian preparation -- not only for celebrating Our Lord's birth, but to make our hearts truly ready to receive Him.

The wreath's symbolism of the advent (coming) of Light into the world is clear. The gradual lighting of the four candles, one on each Suday of the Advent season, combined with the liturgical colors of the candles (purple is the penitential color used during Advent and Lent; rose is a liturgical color used only on Gaudete Sunday in Advent and Laetare Sunday in Lent) help to symbolize not only our expectation and hope in Our Savior's first coming into the world, but also in his Second Coming as Judge at the end of the world.

The wreath itself is also symbolic. The circle of evergreen in which the candles are placed represents everlasting life. The seedpods, nuts and cones used to decorate the wreath are symbolic of resurrection, and fruits represent the nourishing fruitfulness of the Christian life.

Gathering materials for the wreath -- perhaps on an outing in the park or woods, or even in the backyard -- and assembling it at home is an interesting family project in which even the youngest children can participate.

On the first Sunday of Advent, you may sprinkle the wreath with holy water and bless it before the first purple candle is lit. The appropriate Advent collect can be said as the candle[s] are lit each day of the week, followed by the blessing before meals, if you use the wreath at mealtime. The second Sunday two purple candles are lit; the third Sunday, two purple and one rose; and all candles are lit on the fourth Sunday.

Children who are old enough can take turns lighting the candles. (The littlest ones can blow them out at the end of the meal.) If you use the wreath at mealtime, it is helpful to place it on a tray or platter so it can be moved, and to protect the table from candle wax.

On Christmas Day, all the greens and decorations are replaced with fresh ones, and four new white candles, symbolizing Christ, replace the colored ones and are burned throughout the Christmas season. The Advent season is a good time to pray the Angelus at family meals.

Blessing for the Advent Wreath
O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth thy blessing upon this wreath and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the Coming of Christ, and may receive from thee abundant graces. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
________________

Collects for Advent
These prayers, faithful translations of the Latin Collects, or opening prayers, may be said every evening when the Advent wreath is lit.

First Week

Stir up thy power, O Lord, and come, that by thy protection we may be rescued from the dangers that beset us through our sins; and be a Redeemer to deliver us; Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

In English-speaking countries, this Sunday was called "Stirrup Sunday", because the "stir-up" of the Collect was the signal to begin to "stir-up" the fruits for the baking of Christmas cakes and puddings.
Second Week

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the paths of thine Only-begotten Son: that we may worthily serve thee with hearts purified by His coming: Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Third Week

We beseech thee to listen to our prayers, O Lord, and by the grace of thy coming enlighten our darkened minds: Thou who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

On the third Sunday in Advent, Gaudete Sunday, the Church can no longer contain her joyful longing for the coming of the Savior. We light the rose candle and rejoice that our redemption is so close at hand. Gaudete comes from the Latin Antiphon, which begins, "Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.." [Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice...]. On this day, rose-colored vestments are worn, and flowers may decorate the chancel of the church.
Fourth Week

Pour forth thy power, O Lord, and come: Assist us by that mighty power, so that by thy grace and merciful kindness we may swiftly receive the salvation that our sins impede: Who livest and reignest with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

From Celebrating Advent and Christmas: A Sourcebook for Families, (no longer in print) published by Women for Faith & Family, PO Box 300411, St. Louis, MO 63130. Phone 314 863-8385. Copyright Women for Faith & Family. Permission is hereby granted to reprint these prayers for personal use or for parish or schools, with proper acknowledgement of source.


In Advent

(From the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy)
96. Advent is a time of waiting, conversion and of hope:

97. Popular piety is particularly sensitive to Advent, especially when seen as the memory of the preparation for the coming of the Messiah. The Christian people are deeply conscious of the long period of expectation that preceded the birth of our Savior. The faithful know that God sustained Israel's hope in the coming of the Messiah by the prophets.

Popular piety is not unaware of this extraordinary event. Indeed, it is awestruck at the prospect of the God of glory taking flesh in the womb of the humble and lowly Virgin Mary. The faithful are particularly sensitive to the difficulties faced by the Virgin Mary during her pregnancy, and are deeply moved by the fact that there was no room at the inn for Joseph and Mary, just as she was about to give birth to the Christ child (cf Lk 2:7).

Various expressions of popular piety connected with Advent have emerged throughout the centuries. These have sustained the faith of the people, and from one generation to the next, they have conserved many valuable aspects of the liturgical season of Advent.

The Advent Wreath
98. Placing four candles on green fronds has become a symbol of Advent in many Christian homes, especially in the Germanic countries and in North America.

The Advent wreath, with the progressive lighting of its four candles, Sunday after Sunday, until the Solemnity of Christmas, is a recollection of the various stages of salvation history prior to Christ's coming and a symbol of the prophetic light gradually illuminating the long night prior to the rising of the Sun of justice (cf. Ml 3:20; Lk 1:78).

Advent processions
99. In many regions, various kinds of processions are held in Advent, publicly to announce the imminent birth of the Savior (the "day star" in some Italian processions), or to represent the journey to Bethlehem of Joseph and Mary and their search for a place in which Jesus would be born (the posadas in the Hispanic and Latin American tradition).

The Winter Interstice
100. Advent is celebrated during the Winter interstice in the northern hemisphere. This indicate a change of seasons and a moment of rest in many spheres of human endeavour. Popular piety is extremely sensitive to the vital cycle of nature. While the Winter interstice is celebrated, the seed lays in the ground waiting for the light and heat of the sun, which begins its ascent with the Winter solstice, and eventually causes it to germinate.

In those areas where popular piety has given rise to the celebration of the changing season, such expressions should be conserved and used as a time to pray the Lord, to reflect on the meaning of human work, which is a collaboration with the creative work of God, a self-realization of the person, service to the common good, and an actualization of the plan of redemption (114).

The Blessed Virgin Mary and Advent
The Liturgy frequently celebrates the Blessed Virgin Mary in an exemplary way during the season of Advent (115). It recalls the women of the Old Testament who prefigured and prophesied her mission; it exalts her faith and the humility with which she promptly and totally submitted to God's plan of salvation; it highlights her presence in the events of grace preceding the birth of the Savior. Popular piety also devotes particular attention to the Blessed Virgin Mary during Advent, as is evident from the many pious exercise practiced at this time, especially the novena of the Immaculate Conception and of Christmas.

However, the significance of Advent, "that time which is particularly apt for the cult of the Mother of God" (116), is such that it cannot be represented merely as a "Marian month".

In the calendars of the Oriental Churches, the period of preparation for the celebration of the manifestation (Advent) of divine salvation (Theophany) in the mysteries of Christmas-Epiphany of the Only Son of God, is markedly Marian in character. Attention is concentrated on preparation for the Lord's coming in the Deipara. For the Orientals, all Marian mysteries are Christological mysteries since they refer to the mystery of our salvation in Christ. In the Coptic rite, the Lauds of the Virgin Mary are sung in the Theotokia. Among the Syrians, Advent is referred to as the Subbara or Annunciation, so as to highlight its Marian character. The Byzantine Rite prepares for Christmas with a whole series of Marian feasts and rituals.

102. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is profoundly influential among the faithful, is an occasion for many displays of popular piety and especially for the novena of the Immaculate Conception. There can be no doubt that the feast of the pure and sinless Conception of the Virgin Mary, which is a fundamental preparation for the Lord's coming into the world, harmonizes perfectly with many of the salient themes of Advent. This feast also makes reference to the long messianic waiting for the Saviors's birth and recalls events and prophecies from the Old Testament, which are also used in the Liturgy of Advent.

The novena of the Immaculate Conception, wherever it is celebrated, should highlight the prophetical texts which begin with Genesis 3:15, and end in Gabriel's salutation of the one who is "full of grace" (Lk 1:31-33).

The approach of Christmas is celebrated throughout the American continent with many displays of popular piety, centred on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), which dispose the faithful to receive the Savior at his birth. Mary, who was "intimately united with the birth of the Church in America, became the radiant Star illuminating the proclamation of Christ the Savior to the sons of these nations"(117).

Popular piety and the spirit of Advent
105. Popular piety, because of its intuitive understanding of the Christian mystery, can contribute effectively to the conservation of many of the values of Advent, which are not infrequently threatened by the commercialization of Christmas and consumer superficiality.

Popular piety perceives that it is impossible to celebrate the Lord's birth except in an atmosphere of sobriety and joyous simplicity and of concern for the poor and imarginated. The expectation of the Lord's birth makes us sensitive to the value of life and the duties to respect and defend it from conception. Popular piety intuitively understands that it is not possible coherently to celebrate the birth of Him "who saves His people from their sins" without some effort to overcome sin in one's own life, while waiting vigilantly for Him who will return at the end of time.


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