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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
The traditional Advent wreath consists of a circle of evergreen branches into which four candles are inserted, signifying the four weeks of Advent. Three of these candles are purple and one is rose. The purple represents prayer, penance and sacrificial good works done in preparation for the coming of the Lord. These candles are lit on the first, second and fourth Sundays of Advent.
The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday. "Gaudete" is Latin for "rejoice," which is the first word of the entrance antiphon. The celebrant wears rose vestments to signify the anticipatory joy that the waiting is half over and Christmas is near.
The Advent wreath represents the long time that people lived in spiritual darkness waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the light of the world. "Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Each Advent, we wait in the darkness of sin for the coming of the one who offers the light of salvation to all, salvation that began when the Word became flesh in the little town of Bethlehem and continues until his final coming at the end of time. The Advent wreath has found its place at church as well as in the home.
The blessing of the wreath takes place on the first Sunday of Advent. While a priest offers this prayer at church, a parent or other family member may extend this blessing at home. Throughout the season, as the candles are progressively lit, participants offer prayers, sing songs, reflect and prepare for the coming of the Lord.
The following offers additional information, traditions, blessings, prayers and activities to help you experience this tradition in a deeper way.