To understand why we light a pink candle on the Third Sunday of Advent, we need to remind ourselves of what Advent is all about in the first place.
Yes, it’s the time of year when it’s ok to eat a square of chocolate before you’ve even had breakfast, but it’s also a time when we remind ourselves to put God first: above anything else.
If you look at the Gospel reading we heard at Mass on the First Sunday of Advent, you’ll see what I mean.
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.
- Matthew 24:37-39
Now what’s wrong with eating, drinking and getting married? Nothing of course. These aren’t bad things in themselves, but the people in Noah’s time had lost sight of God, and so these things were all they cared about. So much so, that they had know idea that God was angry with them.
We can put all sorts of things in place of God and make them the most important things in our lives: relationships, getting the best grades, sports, money, video games, exercise. None of these things are bad in themselves, but if we worship them, if we make them the number one thing in our lives, we will lose sight of God. We are called to put God before anything else, even before family, or ourselves. It’s not about bumping people people down the list. In fact, if you put God first, your family would get a much better version of you! They’d probably think they had been bumped up!
So why do we hear this reading on the first Sunday of Advent? Look again at that description of the people in Noah’s time. There is a very real danger that that’s us on Christmas day! Eating, drinking, spending time with family, but losing sight of what it’s all about.
All those things that we can worship: that can be at the number one spot, will never completely satisfy us. That’s because our deepest longings point us to the place we are made for: heaven. As St. Augustine put it: “You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”
We’re not just thinking of the real meaning of Christmas during Advent, we are also reminding ourselves that we are made for God, and that one day he will come again. We need to be alert and prepared for that day!
So Advent is a time of getting ready, putting things into perspective and putting God in his rightful place. We think of times we haven’t put God in his rightful place and we can go to Confession. It’s a time when we can challenge the over indulgence and selfishness that are sometimes, sadly, hallmarks of the season, and do something for others. Advent is a penitential season, and the priest wears purple vestments at Mass (and we light purple Advent candles) to signify this.
On the third Sunday of Advent, we dial back the penitence and the solemnity of this season a little bit, to think about the joy of the coming of the Lord. The Third Sunday of Advent is sometimes called Gaudate (which means rejoice) Sunday and the pink (or rose) candle reminds us of this. So be joyful, and think how you can bring joy to somebody else during as we approach the holidays!