|Explained by Rector of Pontifical Liturgical Institute
VATICAN CITY, 27 NOV. 27 2005 (ZENIT)
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
"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
Q: What liturgical particularity would you highlight of this time of
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
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.