“Advent,” derived from the Latin word “adventus,” meaning “coming” or “arrival,” is a season of anticipation and preparation in the Christian liturgical calendar. For Anglicans, as with many other Christian denominations, the observance of Advent involves the symbolic use of candles to mark the passage of time and reflect on the profound spiritual journey leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
The Advent Wreath
At the heart of the Anglican Advent tradition is the Advent wreath, a circular arrangement of four candles, accompanied by a central, fifth candle. The circular shape of the wreath symbolizes eternity and the unending nature of God’s love, while the evergreen branches represent the hope and renewal found in Christ.
The Four Candles
Each of the four candles on the Advent wreath is lit on successive Sundays leading up to Christmas, with each candle representing a specific theme or aspect of the Advent season.
The Candle of Hope (First Sunday of Advent): This candle represents the anticipation of the Messiah, acknowledging the centuries-long waiting period for the fulfillment of God’s promises. Anglicans reflect on the hope found in the Old Testament prophecies and the expectation of the coming Savior.
The Candle of Peace (Second Sunday of Advent): As the second candle is lit, Anglicans contemplate the peace that Christ brings to a world in turmoil. The Prince of Peace is recognized as the source of true peace, both individually and collectively, inviting believers to seek reconciliation and harmony.
The Candle of Joy (Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday): The rose-colored candle is lit on Gaudete Sunday, symbolizing the joy experienced in knowing that the arrival of the Savior is imminent. Anglicans focus on the joy brought by the promise of salvation and the transformative power of Christ’s love.
The Candle of Love (Fourth Sunday of Advent): The final candle before Christmas represents love, the essence of God’s nature. Anglicans meditate on the love of God manifested through the Incarnation, emphasizing the sacrificial nature of divine love as demonstrated in the birth of Jesus.
The Fifth Candle: A central, fifth candle, often white, is lit on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. This candle symbolizes the arrival of Christ, the Light of the World, dispelling darkness and illuminating the path to salvation.
The use of Advent candles in the Anglican tradition serves as a visual and symbolic reminder of the journey from darkness to light, despair to hope, and anticipation to fulfillment. Through the liturgical rhythm of the Advent season, Anglicans engage in a reflective and transformative experience, deepening their understanding of the profound significance of Christ’s birth and the enduring themes of hope, peace, joy, and love that permeate the Christian faith.