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A Ritual for Blessing an Advent Wreath

Displaying the Advent wreath—consisting of four candles with evergreen branches—is a centuries-old custom in Christian churches and homes. You can add an appropriate note of solemnity to the beginning of the Advent season in your home by gathering family and friends for a blessing ritual provided by RENEW International.

BLESSING

The Advent wreath candles are lit on the Sundays of Advent—one on the first Sunday, two on the second Sunday, and so forth. Three of the candles are violet or purple, the liturgical color of the season. The fourth candle is rose or pink—combining the purple of Advent and the white of Christmas. This candle is lit for the first time on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means “rejoice,” the first word of the Entrance Antiphon in that Sunday’s Mass.

In addition to the wreath and candles, have a small amount of holy water available for this devotion along with a sprig of evergreen to sprinkle the wreath. If holy water is not available, you may use plain water. Although the text of the Scripture reading is included in this section, it is preferable that the word of God be read from a Bible or New Testament. Decide in advance on members of the family or friends to read the Scripture passage, light the first candle, and sprinkle holy water on the wreath.

A modern practice is to mark the end of Advent and the coming of Christmas by replacing the candles in the wreath with a single white candle to represent Christ, who is the object of our waiting in Advent. This candle may be wrapped to be the first gift placed under the family’s Christmas tree—symbolizing the true gift we await during this season. Whether your family opens gifts on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day, designate someone to open this gift first on behalf of everyone present. Then add the white candle to the Advent wreath display and light it after removing the other four, a sign that the waiting is over and the incarnate Savior is now our focal point.

Advent Wreath

THE BLESSING

Leader: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

All: Amen.

All make the sign of the cross.

Leader: The flame of a burning candle—the first light at our Easter vigil, the light ignited at our baptism—represents new life, the gift we receive through the grace of Jesus Christ. As we light these Advent candles one by one, we anticipate with growing fervor the coming of Christ—as we recall him in a stable in Bethlehem, as we meet him in the Eucharist, and as we hope to be united with him in eternity.

Reader: A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah.

“The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
    a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
    and great rejoicing,
As they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
    as men make merry when dividing spoils. . . .

For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
    upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
    Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:1-2,5).

The word of the Lord.

All: Thanks be to God.

Leader: O God, we ask you to bless this wreath and these candles. They are the signs of our longing to be one with you through your Son, Jesus Christ. May the growing light from this wreath inspire us to keep his Gospel at the center of our lives, during this season, in our celebration of his birth, and throughout our journey to meet him in heaven, where he reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

All: Amen.

A member of the family lights the first candle. Another member of the family sprinkles the wreath with holy water.

Leader: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

All: Amen.

Adapted from Advent Awakenings, a faith-sharing resource from RENEW International.