The Catholic Church has a variety of liturgical colours that are used in the celebration of the Sacraments. These colours express the mood and liturgical character of the liturgical acts. Because the liturgy is the public worship of the Church, it uses symbols, gestures, rites, signs, etc that are relevant to the people. The seasons in the liturgical year are expressed in the colours that the ministers (bishops, priests and deacons) don when celebrating the sacraments. “The purpose of using different colours is to express the specific character of the various mysteries. The use of the diverse colours is both pedagogical and symbolic of the various liturgical feasts and seasons.” (Redemptionis Sacramentum, 121) Hence, the priest wears a rose or pink vestment on the Gaudete Sunday which is the Third Sunday of Advent and also on the Laetare Sunday which is the Fourth Sunday of Lent.
Why Gaudete Sunday?
Gaudete Sunday has its etymology from the Entrance Antiphon of the Mass on the Third Sunday of Advent: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near. This pericope is taken from Phil. 4:4-5. And in Latin, the first word of the Antiphon is Gaudete. Therefore, the pericope in Latin reads: gaudete in Domino semper iterum dico gaudete… The name of this Third Sunday of Advent gains its origin from Gaudete. Accordingly, this day (Gaudete Sunday) was very noteworthy in previous times when Advent was much more of a penitential season replete with fasting and abstinence and other similar practices (Lang, 1989, p.223). The penitential character of the season of Advent is depicted in the liturgical colour of Violet that is used in this season.
Why then the colour Rose for the Gaudete Sunday?
In the secular world just as colours have meanings and symbolism, in the Church colours especially liturgical colours have meanings. In the secular world, rose is a colour for Gratitude, Grace, Joy and in the liturgical world of the Church, rose is a symbol of Joy as it breaks the penitential mood of both seasons of Advent and Lent.
Strictly speaking the colour for Gaudete Sunday is Rose and not pink. For some, the colour pink has a connotation of a weaker red colour, whereas rose provides the proper sense of penitential attitude and joyful anticipation. For others, rose is a shade of red, not a pink. The reason is that on the colour wheel, rose sits between red and pink and that it looks like a mix of both colours. Some use the pink because rose is a shade of pink. But what does the rubrics say about the specific colour(s) for Gaudete Sunday?
According to the rubrics:
In this Mass, the colour violet or rose is used.
Without the rose, violet can be used. Rose as a liturgical colour has developed over many years as representative of a white and violet mixture; a mixture of the joyful celebration of heaven with the penitential nature of this life. And the colours violet and rose depict exactly what the season Advent brings to mind.
Rose as a Symbol of Joy
The general theme for the Third Sunday of Advent is JOY. This is seen in the Entrance Antiphon, Collect, Readings for the Third Sunday of Advent, etc and the liturgical vestments of the day. Expressions of joy run through the whole Third Sunday of Advent and the mood of the liturgy is that of not only expectant joy but the joyful grip of the nativity of the Lord:
O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the
Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a
salvation, and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and
glad rejoicing. Through our Lord… (Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent)
The use of flowers and the rose-coloured or silver-coloured vestments are a sign of the joy that all the Church feels at the nearness of the Redemption. The Church expresses joy and this Sunday is also called Rejoicing Sunday.
The Instruction of the Church concerning the colour Rose on Sunday Sunday
According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), “It is fitting that the beauty and nobility of each vestment derive not from abundance of overly lavish ornamentation, but rather from the material that is used and from the design. Ornamentation on vestments should, moreover, consist of figures, that is, of images or symbols, that evoke sacred use, avoiding thereby anything unbecoming.” (GIRM, 344)
Consequently, it means that the priest does not wear the rose vestment on Gaudete Sunday just for the fanciful nature of it. The Church prescribes that traditionally certain colours for the vestments are used. And these colours are White, Red, Green, Violet or Purple, besides violet, black vestments may be worn at funeral services and at other Offices and Masses for the Dead where it is the custom.
But GIRM, 346 affirms that “As to the colour of sacred vestments, the traditional usage is to be retained: namely…f. Rose may be used, where it is the practice, on Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and on Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent).”
Therefore, when the priest wears a rose vestment on the Third Sunday of Advent and on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, it is the Church’s prescription. It is a symbol of Joy and it reflects the Church’s sentiment and mood.
REV. FR. MICHAEL SELASI COMBEY // AGNUS-DEI MEDIA
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