Monday, December 10, 2012
The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.
By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. After all, Christ is “the Light that came into the world” to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (cf. John 3:19-21). By 1600, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.
I think we need the ritual of lighting the Advent candles each week to internalize our waiting and preparation for Christmas.
I found today's liturgy full of joy and that is what I am trying to cultivate this Advent - joy because we know that Jesus is coming, has come, and will come again; joy because Jesus loves each of us and comes so helpless and vulnerable so that we may not be afraid to love Him. I often think that the poor stable open to the cold of the night is what made it possible for the shepherds to approach and have the joy of being the first visitors that the Holy Family welcomed!