Continuing our look at the symbols of Advent, we now turn our attention to the color chosen for the liturgical celebrations of this great season of anticipation.
As you probably know, each season of the liturgical year is assigned a specific color. Green, which symbolizes hope, is for Ordinary Time, the weeks between Christmas and Lent and Pentecost and Advent. White, symbolizing joy, is for the seasons of Christmas, which begins on Christmas Eve and ends with the feast of the Baptism of Jesus; and Easter, which begins at sundown the evening before (the Easter Vigil) and stretches through the following 7 weeks. White is also used to celebrate the sacraments of Baptism, Marriage, and Holy Orders. It is also used for Funeral services and the feast days of non-martyred Saints. For extra-special festivity, white can be replaced with gold, particularly on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. Red, the color of blood and a primary color of fire, is assigned toGood Friday; and the feast days of Martyrs and the Holy Spirit, includingPentecost Sunday and the sacrament of Confirmation. Violet, which symbolizes penance, is the color for Lent, while purple is for Advent.
There is often confusion regarding the colors for Advent and Lent, as purpleand violet are frequently but mistakenly interchanged. Violet, decidedly lighter and redder, was used to symbolize forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God and His people, one of the primary themes of Lent. Because of its association with royalty, purple, the darker, bluer shade was used by the ancient Roman church to implore the return of Christ as King, which is the primary theme of the Advent season. Since the dye used to create it was very expensive, purple was reserved for royal garments. Only the Emperor or his delegate could lawfully wear it.
That Jesus is, in a sense, royalty is born out in the Scriptures. In Matthew’s Gospel, for example, the Magi come from the East searching for the “newborn King of the Jews” (2:2). He is often referred to as “Son of David,” having been born in the ancestral line of ancient Israel’s great king (Mk 10:47) in fulfillment of God’s promise to make David’s kingdom and ancestral line eternal (2 Samuel 7: 16). Jesus was hailed as king when He entered Jerusalem (Lk 19:38; Jn 12:15). During His passion some soldiers threw a purple cloak over His shoulders in mock tribute of the supposed “King of the Jews.” (Mk 15:17; Jn 19:2, 5).
Jesus also promised to come back to earth at the end of time to judge the living and the dead; but His return would be as King not just of Israel but all creation (Mt 25). On the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, we even proclaim this belief in theSolemnity of Jesus Christ, the King. In Advent, then, the Church expresses its desire to wait patiently for the return of Christ our King, using royal purple vestments as one of our symbols of anticipating His Second Coming. (Because of the improper interchanging of purple and violet, some parishes began using shades ofblue during Advent to set it apart from Lent. Of course, this is not liturgically precise, but the point is well taken.)
On the 3rd Sunday of Advent, called “Gaudete Sunday” (from the Latin word for “rejoice”) a soft pink hue called “rose” can be used in place of purple to mark the halfway point of this season of joyful preparation and expectation. (The same is true on the 4th Sunday of Lent, which is called “Latare” Sunday.)
As we prepare to celebrate the first coming of our Savior, let us likewise prepare for His return by becoming Christians who more and more color the world with the joy and hope of our faith, which is rooted in and expressed by generous acts of love!
LET’S GO EAGLES, FLYERS & SIXERS!!
In His Love,