Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

The Meaning of the Advent Wreath

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A. The wreath is a symbol of this time of the liturgical year. Interestingly, there is no liturgical requirement to have an Advent wreath in our churches. In many parishes the wreath is placed in the parish center or vestibule.

It is a custom, like many, that began in European countries, where red candles is used to point to Christmas. We use four candles as a reference to the 4 weeks of Advent. Three are purple – a color used to express penance. Advent once was a penitential season. The rose candle is a sign of joy and is lighted on the 3rd Sunday once know as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for “rejoice.” It was a break in the Advent practice of fasting and abstinence. Many communities today use white candles only. The circular wreath is a reference to the eternal, continuing presence of God in our lives. The evergreens traditionally symbolize life.


Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

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