As mentioned in the past, integral to the season of Advent is the Advent Wreath which has a long Catholic tradition. The Wreath is displayed prominently on our altar. It typically has four candles that are lit progressively during the Sundays of Advent. There is also a fifth candle that is reserved for the Christmas season. The first candle is the Prophecy Candle or the Candle of Hope. It reminds us that we can have hope because God is faithful and will keep the promises made to us. The second Candle is the Bethlehem Candle or the Candle of Preparation. We remember the words of the Prophet Isaiah who said, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him.” The third candle is the Shepherd Candle or the Candle of Joy. We reflect on how we joyfully anticipate the coming of the Christ Child. The fourth candle is the Angel Candle or the Candle of Love. We reflect on how the angels announce the coming of the Savior, sent by God because He loves us. The fifth candle is the Christ Candle. It reminds us that Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God sent to wash away our sins. These candles can also help us reflect on the desire to see the light of Christ shine through the darkness of our lives.
In the midst of this season of Advent, we celebrate on Thursday the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Catholics believe that from the moment of her conception, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was preserved from original sin. It is most appropriate that this feast falls during the Advent season. During this season, we are called to have a generosity of spirit. Mary had this spirit as she generously accepted the call from the Angel Gabriel to bring the Christ Child into this world. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a Holy Day of Obligation and also provides us with another opportunity to honor our Blessed Virgin in a very special way. As we celebrate this great feast, and as the season of Advent continues, we are challenged to avoid secular distractions as we strive through prayer and acts of charity to truly prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord.