Advent is taken from the Latin word Adventus which means "coming". It is the Latin translation of the Greek word parousia, which the New Testament most often referred to Jesus’ second coming.[i]
It is believed that Advent began sometime after the 4th century. It was observed as a time of preparation for Epiphany also known as Three Kings Day. Epiphany is a celebration of the manifestation of Jesus by observing the visit of the Magi and as a time to observe the baptism of Jesus. Epiphany was the time new Christians were baptized and received into the faith. It was during this time the early church instituted a 40-day period of fasting and repentance.
Originally, Advent was not a celebration of the coming of the Christ-child, but rather, it was a time of anticipation and preparation for the Second Coming of Christ.
By the 8th Century, the church adopted what western Christianity today observes as Advent. Since the 8th century, Advent has become the celebration of the Christ’s coming through his birth in Bethlehem, the anticipation of his future appearance at the end of time, and the remembrance of his presence among us through the Holy Spirit.[ii]
Meaning of the Advent Wreath
Advent begins on the first Sunday closest to November 30th and continues through Christmas Eve. The Catholic and Western Churches traditionally display an Advent wreath on the first Sunday of Advent.
The wreath symbolizes the eternity of God. It is a circle, thus symbolizes no beginning and no end. The use of evergreens symbolizes eternal life through Jesus Christ. According to Catholic tradition, each of the four candles represents 1,000 years, thus the four candles signify the four thousand years humanity has waited for the Savior of the world to come. The white center candle is called the Christ candle and represents the presence of Jesus Christ. The lighting of the candles reminds believers that Jesus Christ is the light of the world.
Traditionally there are three purple candles, one pink candle and one white candle. The purple candles represent repentance, and fasting; but, it also is the color of royalty. The pink symbolizes joy and rejoicing and represents the shift of the season from repentance to joy. The white candle represents the purity of Christ and his cleansing power over sin.
What Each Advent Candle Represents
Week One – The Prophecy Candle. Precept One - Hope
Week Two – The Bethlehem Candle. Precept Two - Preparation/Peace
Week Three – The Shepherd Candle. Precept Three - Joy
Week Four – The Angel Candle. Precept Four - Love
Christmas Eve – The Christ Candle. Christ is come, He is present.
[i] Eric Metaxas – “Don't Let Black Friday Tarnish the Meaning of Advent” http://www.christianheadlines.com/columnists/breakpoint/don-t-let-black-friday-tarnish-the-meaning-of-advent.html
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