This is just one of many different ways to celebrate the lighting of the Advent candles. We've used many different versions over the years, but we like this one for its simplicity and connection to the Mass of the season. Our ceremony this evening followed this format except that we never have the children light the candles; they do take turns blowing them out every night, though, starting with the youngest child. Also, we add a much-loved statue of the Child Jesus to the center and are using white candles with the traditional purple and pink represented by ribbons. Though it has started out on the dining room table, our wreath will probably end up being moved over to the buffet nearby, as it just takes up too much room. A lot of living gets done on our table, and we may not be able to avoid smooshing the wreath or knocking down the candles in the course of a day. We'll see how it goes tomorrow...
by Sr. Mary Laetitia, R.S.M.B
Nihil Obstat: J. Gerald Kealy, D.D.
Imprimatur: Samuel Cardinal Stritch
Archbishop of Chicago, Nov 22, 1955
Advent is the season of lovely expectancy, of holy anticipation, and of intense longing. Especially in the home where the children learn to prepare for the Christ Child's birthday, Advent can be made the most tenderly beautiful season of the year.
In studying the literature of the Church we find that the Advent prayers dramatize joyfully the real meaning of preparation for the great feast. With this thought in mind we will explain through these pages the many customs of the Church which we can observe in the home or in the school to keep this Birthday a vibrant, living expectancy among young and old.
The Advent Wreath
One of the most popular of the ancient customs is the Advent wreath. It is made of evergreens bound to a wire circle. Originally taken from the pagan fire wheel, it represents the cycle of years from Adam to Christ. it bears four candles spaced evenly, one for each week. The wreath is usually suspended from the ceiling by four purple ribbons, but it may be laid on the dining room table or on an end table with the candle kept burning during the evening meal.
The little ones enjoy helping to make the wreath, which can be fashioned from several bunches of laurel leaves bound to a metal barrel hoopp; the laurel, being significant of triumph, reminds us of Christ's victory over sin. One may use fragrant pine or whatever other greens are on hand. Some wreaths are kept fresh in plastic snow; to others a star is lighted for prayers. The advent wreath is especially proper to the home, where the children as well as the parents take their turn in lighting the candle.
The ceremony for use of the Advent wreath is so simple that it may be practiced in the home or the school. It consists primarily of the Collects for the Sundays of Advent.
On the First Sunday
after the family has gathered for the blessing of the wreath, the father begins:
(This first part is repeated each week)
Father: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
Father: O God, by Whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessings upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ, and may receive from Thee abundant graces, through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen. (Father sprinkles the wreath with holy water)
Father: Stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, O Lord, and come so that we may escape through Thy protection and be saved by Thy help from the dangers that threaten us because of our sins, Who livest and regnest forever and ever.
All: Amen. (One candle is lighted by the youngest child and left burning during the meal)
Father: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds, Through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen. (Two candles are lightted by the eldest child and allowed to burn as before)
Father: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thine ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation, through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen. (Three candles are lighted by the mother and allowed to burn as before)
Father: O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with Thy great might help us, that with the help of Thy grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impeded, through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen. (All four candles are lighted by the father and allowed to burn as before)
At the end of Advent the ribbons may be changed to white and tiny bells added for decoration. The festive wreath may then be hung in the entrance hall to add a touch of gaiety to the home, and to give the family an opportunity to explain the wreath to neighbors or friends who have not seen it previously.
* Coming up, more excerpts from Sr. Mary Laetitia's pamphlet, including customs for the feast of St. Nicholas, The Christmas Crib (or creche), the O Anthems, The Christmas Wreath, The Christmas Candle, and the blessing of the Christmas tree.