The Meaning of the Advent Candles

The Meaning of the Advent Candles December 2, 2012

Why are there so many different themes attached to the four Advent Candles (purple and pink). A survey of websites and books on Advent surface a number of options. Does anyone know why there are so many different traditions? Is there a source that has researched this phenomenon?

Here’s just are some examples:

Promise, Light, Love, Hope

Hope, Peace, Joy, Love

Prophecy, Bethlehem, Shepherd, Angel

Hope, Preparation, Joy, Love

Prophecy, Way, Joy, Peace

Expectation,  John the Baptist, Mary, Magi

Waiting for the Shepherd, Waiting for Forgiveness, Waiting for Joy, Waiting for the Son



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  • editor

    You don’t mention the one common in England: Patriarchs, prophets, John the Baptist, Holy family. These are seen as ‘concentric circles’ of testimony and anticipation.

    • jwillitts

      Thank you, yet another

  • It has to do with the themes that emerge from the lectionary’s readings for that Sunday. That’s what I have assumed, Joel.

  • Beau Sullivan

    I am a Baptist who became a pastor of a liturgical church last year and I had to do some research on what the colors and were supposed to mean. I went back to a Book from a class I took in Seminary. The Book is called Calendar:Christ’s Time for the Church by Laurence Hull Stookey on page 127 he writes “Nor is the color of the candles uniform. In the early stages of use, at least, often all four candles were white or perhaps red (for no better reason than that red and green cannote Christmas). But an alternative was to use colors to match the liturgical color of the season. So four violet (or purple) cndles came into use among Protestants. Shortly, however, even Protestant supply houses began to mimic an obsolete Roman Catholic custom; it had been the practice among Catholics to use rose (mistakenly called “pink”) on Gaudete Sunday as a visual signal that the intense solemnity of the “violent Sundays” eased off for this occasion. So Advent kits are still sold containing three violet and one rose candle; never mind that Advent is no longer penitential in the Roman Church and that almost no one uses rose vestments!”

    • Unknown

      ^^ I think you may need to check your understanding of Catholic tradition, as all priests I have come into contact during Advent, definitely wear Rose coloured vestments on the 3rd Sunday of Advent!

  • Anna Rosengren

    I wanted to know what the four candles symbolized for Advent I wasn’t expecting to run into Joel Willitts via the Internet. Cheers! : )