Jesus said to his disciples, ‘As it was in Noah’s day, so will it be when the Son of Man comes. For in those days before the Flood people were eating, drinking, taking wives, taking husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and they suspected nothing till the Flood came and swept all away. It will be like this when the Son of Man comes. Then of two men in the fields one is taken, one left; of two women at the millstone grinding, one is taken, one left.
‘So stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming. You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house. Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’
Advent has officially begun! Preparations are all around... and we have an annual family appointment on the first Sunday of Advent for all the sisters in law to get together and make the various wreaths, for our homes, schools, parishes and even sometimes offices.
The wreath is not a liturgical requirement of the universal Church but rather a bit of local colour (I had never seen one until I came to England) and an item of great use as a teaching aid for the family and a focus of what the Church calls 'popular piety'... in our family, Advent cannot start if the wreath is not placed at the centre of our dinner table and the candle lit.
At the end of a long day when the family finally gather together to share the evening meal the candle is lit, in turns, by a different member of the family and we sing a verse of an advent hymn.
Every Saturday at Vespers a new candle is lit as a new week begins and we prepare ourselves for the ever closer coming of Our Lord.
Wouldn't it be easier to buy one ready-made or made of artificial plants rather than having to find the time to make one every year? Possibly... but it's these very traditions that make each liturgical season distinct, moreover I love the symbolism behind the wreath. The evergreen that is used represents the continuous life that God gives to us, the circle itself which has no beginning and no end symbolizes the eternity of God and life everlasting found in Christ. Pinecones and any seed used to decorate the wreath speaks of new life and the Resurrection.
On many wreaths, especially those used in Church, the four candles are coloured according to the four weeks of advent, traditionally 3 purple one (symbolizing prayer, fasting and almsgiving) and 1 pink one lit for 'Gaudete Sunday' (3rd Sunday of Advent) , The Sunday of rejoicing... as the Lord's coming draws near.
The wreath accompanies us through this time of waiting and reminds us that the Saviour is coming and through him everlasting life extended to us.
An additional white candle representing Christ is sometimes added to the centre of the wreath and is lit on Christmas Eve.
On Sunday morning after Mass we (sisters in law and friends) gather together and collect greenery from various gardens
This year in order to get the children involved, we bought smaller aosis rings for them to decorate and either keep or bring to school for use in their classrooms.
Mulled Wine and Christmas Carols are compulsory
I like to add some extra decorations beyond the usual greenery which can fade a bit in the final weeks of advent, this year apples and cinnamon
The oasis ring had been left overnight to soak in the bath
The candle holders go in first
You can add some greenery around the side to give the wreath some extra volume
Then start adding the greenery and decorations in sets of four so that you keep the wreath symmetrical
I'm even learning to do it one-handed with some help from my daughter Elena
We even added some wildlife
Here's our selection this year:
And before you start using it here's a blessing that can be used at home and done ideally by the Father of the household as head of the domestic church...
... I love having the wreath on the dinner table... then I remember I have 'young adults' (I don't like using the word teenagers) sitting next to me... still behaving like children