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Tuesday, December 11, 2018
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Catechesis

Advent Wreath

advent2The Advent Wreath is a circular garland of evergreen branches representing eternity. On that wreath four candles are typically arranged. During the season of Advent, one candle on the wreath is lit for each Sunday. Each candle repre-sents an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord.

Set on the branches of the wreath are four candles: three purple and one pink. These candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the world. The first purple candle, lit on the first Sunday of Advent is typically called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This candles represents love. Some call it the Bethlehem Candle symbolizing Christ’s manger. On the third Sunday of Advent, the pink candle is lit. It is customarily called the “Shepherd’s Candle” and represents joy. The fourth and last purple can-dle, which is often called the “Angel’s Candle” represents peace, is lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent. (Christianity.com)

Main Advent Candle Colors

These three principal colors of Advent are packed with rich meaning. Enhance your appreciation of the season as you learn what each color symbolizes and how it is used on the Advent Wreath.

Purple or Blue

Purple (or violet) has traditionally been the primary color of Advent, symbolizing repentance and fasting. Purple is also the color of royalty and the sovereignty of Christ, demonstrating anticipation of and reception of the coming King celebrated during Advent.

Today, many churches have begun to use blue instead of purple, as a means of distinguishing Advent from Lent. Others use blue to signify the color of the night sky or the waters of the new creation in Genesis 1.

The first candle of the Advent Wreath, the Prophecy Candle or Candle of Hope, is purple. The second, called the Bethlehem Candle or the Candle of Preparation, is also purple in color.

Likewise, the fourth Advent Candle color is purple. It's called the Angel Candle or the Candle of Love.

Pink or Rose

Pink (or rose) is also one of the colors of Advent used during the third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday in the Catholic Church. Pink or rose represents joy or rejoicing and reveals a shift in the season away from repentance and toward celebration.

The third Advent Wreath Candle, named the Shepherd Candle or Candle of Joy, is pink in color.

White

White is the color of Advent representing purity and light. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior. He is the light come into a dark and dying world. Also, those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.

Lastly, the Christ Candle is the fifth Advent Candle, positioned in the center of the wreath. This Advent Candle's color is white.

Spiritually preparing by focusing on the colors of Advent in the weeks leading up to Christmas is a great way for Christian families to keep Christ the center of Christmas, and for parents to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas.

Almsgiving as an Act of Mercy

by Paul Senz

cross5We all recognize Lent as a time of sacrifice, a time to prepare ourselves for the commemoration of Jesus Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Traditionally, there are three pillars of this intensely spiritual and ascetic period that can help us grow in charity and perfect penitence: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Prayer and fasting are the most widely understood of these three pillars, as is their connection to the 40 days of Lent.

In these 40 days, we unite ourselves with Christ in the desert, as he prepared for his ministry. He fasted; he fervently prayed. But did he give alms? Almsgiving calls for a great examination. What exactly does it mean to give alms? How does this relate to prayer and fasting, particularly in the context of Lenten sacrifice?

Almsgiving is more than handing out money; it is about the universal destination of goods, a term used in Catholic social teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “the goods of creation are destined for the entire human race” (no. 2452).

Far from being a sort of socialist mantra, this is a reminder of our responsibility to our brothers and sisters in the truest sense of caritas, or charity: “Giving alms to the poor is a witness to fraternal charity: It is also a work of justice pleasing to God” (no. 2462). It is just, and the height of mercy, to give of ourselves and our goods for the sake of others. There is perhaps no better time to practice such a virtue than the season of preparing for the Paschal Mystery.

Almsgiving is not just about giving money to the church, putting a few dollars into the donation basket. It is about giving of what we have—and giving of ourselves. How many of us have more than we truly need? And how much of that excess do we pass along to our brothers and sisters? Jesus lauds the poor widow who gives of her meager means (see Mk 12:41-44), even in her poverty. We are all called to embrace this spirit of charity.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we are reminded that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In Tobit, we read that “prayer with fasting is good. Almsgiving with righteousness is better than wealth with wickedness. It is better to give alms than to store up gold, for almsgiving saves from death, and purges all sin. Those who give alms will enjoy full life” (Tb 12:8-9). What is it that unites the three pillars of Lent together? These pillars help us to empty ourselves, in the spirit of Jesus’ emptying of himself: “Rather, he emptied himself, / taking the form of a slave, / coming in human likeness; / and found human in appearance, / he humbled himself, / becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8).

We go beyond ourselves and seek the good of the other and the glorification of God, at the expense of our own egos, at the expense of our own comfort. Such acts of sacrifice and self-mortification help to put us in harmony with God again, help us to reforge the relationship that was fractured by our sin. Almsgiving is a true Lenten sacrifice because we do it without expecting to receive anything in return. Jesus tells us, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you” (Lk 14:12-14).

It is in this spirit that we give, and in a special way during Lent. We are not doing this because we will receive something ourselves; we do it for love of our neighbor, and to fulfill the command of our Lord. Our almsgiving is to be done in the truest sense of caritas—self-sacrificial love. This is mercy in a very real sense.  We follow the example of Jesus Christ. During this Lenten season, we strive to unite ourselves with him who gave everything, including his very life, so that we might have eternal life in us. 

Senz is a freelance writer living in Oregon with his family.

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