In the Catholic tradition, is there a particular order in lighting the candles on an Advent Wreath?
If there is, why?
Which candle is lit first, and what order follows to the last candle?
Where is the pink candle located in relation to the rest?
The advent wreath is an evergreen wreath with four candles. One is rose (pink) and the other three are purple.
Before lighting any candles on the wreath you should bless the wreath on the first Sunday of Advent.
O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Through Christ our Lord. [Response] Amen.
Now you are ready to light the candles. The candles are not all lit at once. They are lit every night, adding one each week. For weeks when multiple candles are lit you must light them making the Sign of the Cross.
First make the Sign of the Cross.
Light the appropriate candles:
Each week has an Advent prayer that is prayed after lighting the candles. The prayers are traditionally from the prayers that begin Mass for the beginning of that week. There is some variation. The following are from the traditional Latin Mass:
- Bestir, O Lord, Thy might, we pray thee and come; that, defended by Thee, we may deserve rescue from approaching dangers brought on by our sins, and being set free by Thee, obtain our salvation. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
- Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the ways of Thine only-begotten Son, that through His coming we may be worthy to serve Thee with purified minds. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
- Incline Thine ear to our prayers, O Lord, we beseech Thee; and make bright the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
- Bestir, O Lord, Thy might, we beseech Thee, and come; and with great power come to our aid, that, by the help of Thy grace, that which is hindered by our sins may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
Leave the candles burning for a time. Some families let them burn throughout dinner, or during a special devotional time they have set aside each evening.
Explanation and Symbolism
Like nearly every other devotional, the Sign of the Cross starts and ends the lighting of the Advent wreath. Likewise, the wreath is lit in the same pattern. Lighting the Wreath is a nightly event that can be used as a way for Christians to intentionally keep Christ on their minds and in their hearts during the Advent season. The colors are not necessarily important, but they add extra symbolism. Purple reminds us that this is a time of penance, fasting, and prayer. The rose candle is lit on Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent, which is past the half way point to Christmas. The rose color gives us encouragement and reminds us that Christmas is indeed coming. During the Advent, the priest in your local parish may wear purple vestments during the Mass, but on the third Sunday, he may wear rose vestments. This is the same symbolism at work.
From your picture, the following looks to be the most appropriate arrangement and lighting order:
The candles on the wreath arranged as below make it easier to see the order of lighting tracing the sign of the cross.
1. The sign of the cross is made by moving your right hand up to touch your forehead, then to the lower middle chest, then to the left shoulder, then to the right. Some Eastern traditions move from right to left. While doing this you pray "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." When on the word Father touch your forehead, and Son touch your chest, and Holy touch one shoulder, and Spirit touch the other shoulder.
An Advent Wreath can have: a) 3 purple candles and 1 pink candle; or b) 4 white candles. Apart from the fact that they should be disposed in a shape in harmony with the circular shape of the wreath, there are no other geometric requisites.
Supposing that we choose a), each Sunday you light one candle, in this order: purple-purple-pink-purple. The pink one corresponds to Gaudete (=Rejoice) Sunday, with which the third Advent week begins, and its lighter color reflects the anticipated joy of Christmas.
Main source: La Corona de Adviento [Spanish, the best I found, easy to google-translate].
Is there a particular order in lighting candles on an advent wreath in the Catholic Church?
The short answer is no.
There does not appear to be any prescribed order, either officially or even traditionally, except that the rose-colored candle is lit on the third (Gaudete) Sunday of Advent. The other three candles are customarily violet in color, although the Book of Blessings also allows for four violet or white candles.
While there appears to be no prescribed order for the first and second candle, it does appear to be a tradition that the order in which they are lit should be maintained. In other words, when the fourth Sunday arrives the candle from the first week is lit first, then the second week, the rose candle follows, and finally the last candle begins to shine. This order should be maintained on each occasion that the candles are lit over the four weeks.
In Protestant use, four red candles are more common, with the occasional addition of a white candle in the center to represent Christ. In parts of some countries such as Italy and Brazil, four different colors are sometimes used which are lit in order from the darkest to the lightest hue so as to signify the progressive illumination of the world as Christ approaches. - Lighting the Advent Candles
The Advent Wreath at our local parish has a white candle in the middle which will, of course, be lit at the Christmas Mass.
From the sources that are available on line, liturgists are not in agreement as to what order the candles should be lit and none quote any official writings or traditions. Some individuals of liturgical committees will said the candle on the right of the first lit candle (going counterclockwise); while others will say the candle on the left (going clockwise). If there is a rose candle in one's Advent Wreath it is always lit on third (Gaudate) Sunday of Advent. The official Book of Blessings from the Vatican is silent on this issue.