Advent wreath

You'll need:

3 purple candles
1 pink candle
greenery (evergreens are preferred)
ring of wood, wire stand, or Styrofoam

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. The purple represents a time of penance, although a different sort of penance than that of Lent. This is more of a longing, a realization of the need for Christ in our lives. The pink candle is for the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priests wear rose-colored vestments and when we shout for joy at the promise of the Savior being fulfilled soon. Green is the color of hope and a symbol of eternal life in Christ. The ring is a symbol of the eternal nature of God.

Place the candles in the ring, and decorate with the greenery. White ribbons could be added as a symbol of divine innocence.

Start an evening Advent ceremony before or after the evening meal when the family is together. If you have children, they can alternate the lighting and blowing out of the candle, and the nightly reading of Scripture. When all are involved, there is more understanding and attention given. Light the first purple candle and read 1 Samuel 16:1-13.

We keep the candles lit each evening as we read Scripture and sing a verse of an Advent hymn. Some families at this time read the Scripture lessons for the Mass on that day. On Christmas Eve, we light additional candles throughout the house and keep them burning all evening until bedtime. We follow the customary ritual: We pray a blessing on the wreath the first time we light it. Blessings can be found in many Catholic prayer books. On the first Sunday in Advent, and every evening of the following week, we light a single purple candle. The children take turns lighting the candle, though it is an old German custom that anyone with the name "John" or "Joan" can claim the first rights for this job. The reason? It was Saint John the evangelist who began his Gospel by calling Jesus the "light of the world," and it was Saint John the Baptist who saw the light of Christ’s divinity shining as He came to be baptized in the Jordan River (see John 1:1-36).The second Sunday and the following week, we light two candles. On the third Sunday we light two purple and the pink candles. The third Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing. Beginning on the fourth Sunday, all four candles are lit, and on Christmas Eve, the Christ candle burns as well.The Advent wreath appears at this time of year in homes as well as churches. You can purchase ready-made wreaths made of evergreens and fitted with four candles, or make one yourself. Traditionally, three of the candles are purple, and one is pink (rose). A large white candle, the Christ candle, stands in the middle. The shape of the wreath — a circle with no beginning or end — is an ancient symbol of our eternal God, who has no beginning or end. The evergreens represent everlasting life. The candles symbolize Jesus, the light of the world. Purple is the color of penance and pink is the color of joy.

Visit the Passionists' site for prayers for the Advent wreath.

Excerpt from Building Catholic Family Traditions by Paul and Leisa Thigpen. Copyright © 1999 by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.