Southwark Spirituality Commission is currently offering daily Reflections, delivered to your email inbox.
Advent a very special season of of expectation, as we move through events leading to the birth of the child Jesus on Christmas Day. It is a time of preparation for our hearts and minds, as we come nearer to welcoming the Light of the World, and God's salvation for mankind.
To help us make this important preparation, the Southwark Spirituality Commission is offering daily Advent Reflections to subscribers, which will then continue into the Christmas Season. Each participant will receive the suggestion of a Bible passage, followed by a short reflection and prayer suggestion.
This year's reflections will allow us to hear the readings anew, looking at where they resonate in our own lives and how we can draw closer to the Lord.
By spending 10-15 minutes in contemplative prayer each day, it is possible to journey, along with prophets, the shepherds, Mary and Joseph, towards the joy of the arrival of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day
To find out more about the work of the Southwark Spirituality Commission
The Meaning of the Advent Wreath
Many of us enjoy seeing the candles on an Advent Wreath being lit each week in Church, or even at home. Advent is traditionally a period of penance prayer and fasting, to make ready for a time of great fasting and joy at Christmas. The candles and greenery both have special significance on the wreath, which brings more light to our lives with each passing week during the Advent Season, whilst the circular nature of the wreath itself reminds us of God’s everlasting love for his people.
The first purple candle, which is lit on the first Sunday of Advent (also the beginning of the Church year) symbolizes Hope. It may also be known as the 'Prophecy Candle' in remembrance of the prophets, and in particular, Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. The divinely led visions heralding the birth of Christ were brought forth over thousands of years before the arrival of Jesus. From Moses and Micah, and the psalmists to Isaiah, God's plan of love and salvation for his people was foreseen and made manifest in the long-expected person of Jesus Christ.
In the second week of Advent, we light another purple candle, which represents Faith. This may also be known as the “Bethlehem Candle” or the 'Peace Candle', firstly as a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, but also because after all the division, destruction, and dispersion of the kingdom in the Old Testament, a new Kingdom of Peace will arrive on Earth through Jesus. In his letter to the Corinthians, St Paul offers peace to the reader, whilst they are waiting for Jesus Christ to be revealed:
'May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.'
The Third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, with the Latin 'Gaudete' translating to 'rejoice' in English. In the Church, rose is the liturgical colour for Joy, and so on this Sunday we light the rose or pink candle, which may also be known as the 'Shepherd’s Candle'. It reminds us of the joyful anticipation of the shepherds who journeyed to see Jesus in Bethlehem, arriving before the wise men.
Gaudete Sunday marks the mid-point of our Advent journey, and with the theme of joy, the faithful may embrace the nearness of Christ's arrival with relaxation from the more penitential aspects of the season.
On the fourth week of Advent, we light the last penitential purple candle to mark the final week of the Season. This penultimate candle represents Love, and is often known as the 'Angel’s Candle' It reminds us of the message of the angels: 'Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men' and also the love of God for his sons and daughters, that He might send His only Son for the salvation to mankind..
On Christmas Day we light the final white candle in the middle of the wreath, Known as the 'Christ Candle' the pure white candle represents Christ, who is born without sin and who comes to light our way to the Lord.
Many plants carry symbolic spiritual meaning, and the evergreens used on an Advent Wreath reflect God's everlasting love for us, as well as aspects of Christ's life and divine nature. For example, the laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering. The pine represents new life and the holly foretells the crown of thorns, but also speaks immortality. Branches of the yew tree represent resurrection and the cedar, known for its longevity and resistance to decay, speaks of healing and the beauty of Mary's immaculate and unchanging nature.
The Advent wreath reminds us of God’s promise of everlasting life to us through Christ.
Draw closer to the Lord this Advent and Christmas