VATICAN CITY, NOV. 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Advent wreath is one of the Christian symbols used to call to mind the coming of the Messiah.
In this interview with ZENIT, Father Juan Javier Flores Arcas, rector of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of St. Anselm in Rome, speaks about the significance of the Advent wreath.
Q: What do the four candles of the Advent wreath signify?
Father Flores: Each liturgical time has its own signs. Advent also has them. The Advent wreath come from northern Europe, specifically from Scandinavia, and in the last years has entered strongly in our Christian communities. It consists of a circular support of green branches, without flowers, on which four candles are placed. The color purple is the most appropriate.
These candles symbolize the four weeks of the time of Advent and are progressively lit on each of the Sundays. The wreath must be placed in a visible place in the presbytery — very near the altar, very near the pulpit — on a small table, or the trunk of a tree or hung from the ceiling.
Q: Besides this special place in the church, could it be the centerpiece in a private home, for example?
Father Flores: It is also a custom in German-speaking countries to take these candles home and to place them in prominent places to signify the awaiting of the Messiah; in this way, the liturgical celebration enters daily living, family life, domestic customs and imbues the Christian’s whole life with Christian meaning and messianic flavor.
Q: How can one make the coming of Jesus Christ, year after year, understood as a novelty?
Father Flores: The coming of Christ is old and new. It is a past event that is actualized in the liturgical celebration.
The Church is above all the bride of Christ, the only supreme priest. In this connection, she is the receiver of the sacraments but not the producer or creator. The Church re-creates the sacraments as collaborator of the groom from whom she receives life and everything to be able to act.
For this reason, the meaning and end of the liturgical celebration is precisely to make all generations participate actively in Christ’s work of salvation.
“Christ truly acts in the sacraments as the supreme priest of his Church, which he liberates through his saving action and leads to life,” said Odo Casel.
The time of Advent leads the Church to the threshold of her existence, which is why the great characteristic of Advent of the year 2005 should be hope.
Q: What liturgical particularity would you highlight of this time of Advent?
Father Flores: Advent is a live and actual time. While we hear the still unfulfilled prophecies, we see the world pass before our eyes and long for the world to come, which we already begin to live and prepare for in the present.
While we await the morrow, joyful and desired, we work in the present, actual and hopeful, and we look at the past — Christ’s coming in mortal flesh — and we are thrilled to have had him among us and are strengthened in our flesh which was his own and, therefore, is full of the salvific strength that he infused in it.
Advent is a live and present time that, on delving into the messianic past, launches us toward the prophetic future. The Holy Trinity is in the whole process: The Father creates, the Son comes to this world to re-create it, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies it and unites it in love.