We are now in the season of Advent, which lasts for four weeks and ends on the feast of Christmas. The word advent is from two Latin words meaning “coming to,” and during Advent the Church remembers the two great “coming to us’s” of Christ: his first coming to us as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, and his second coming to us as the Judge and King of the universe at the end of time. Judgment is thus a recurring Advent theme. While not a penitential season like Lent, Advent is a time of muted joy and expectation; hence the purple vestments and church hangings, the omission of the Gloria in excelsis from the Liturgy, and our use of the Merbecke setting of the Kyrie eleison and the Sanctus and Benedictus, which is more solemn than the Willan setting we use most of the year.
The Advent Wreath is probably the most recognized Advent custom. It is a wreath made of evergreens that is bound to a circle of wire. The wreath holds four equally spaced candles, the three purple ones lit on the three penitential Sundays of Advent and a pink one for Gaudete, the joyful third Sunday in Advent. The Advent wreath symbolizes the advent (or coming) of Jesus Christ, the True Light of the World.