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Scott P. Richert

Reader Question: Why Do Priests Wear Purple During Advent?

By December 7, 2007

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A reader writes:

I noticed our priest started wearing purple vestments on the first Sunday of Advent. Aren't purple vestments usually worn during Lent? At Christmas time, I would have expected something more festive, like red or green or white.

You're very observant! You've probably also noticed that the altar cloth is purple, and if your church normally has flowers or plants near the altar, those have been removed. You may also have noticed that the Gloria ("Glory to God in the highest") is not sung during Advent, either.

All of these things are signs of the penitential nature of Advent and a reminder that the Christmas season hasn't started yet. I've mentioned before that Advent was once known as a "little Lent," and so the penitential color of purple makes an appearance, the organ is muted, and the Gloria--one of the most festive hymns of the Mass--isn't sung. Our thoughts, even on Sunday, are supposed to be on preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ, both at Christmas and at the Second Coming.

Just as during Lent, however, the Church allows us some rest as we pass the halfway point of Advent. The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, because "Gaudete" ("Rejoice") is the first word of the entrance antiphon at that Mass. On that Sunday, your priest will likely wear rose vestments--a color that still reminds us of the penitential purple, but also has a lightness and joy to it, reminding us that Christmas is drawing near.

April 2, 2010 at 4:28 am
(1) Matt says:

You didn’t really answer the question.

December 6, 2010 at 7:23 pm
(2) Scott P. Richert says:

Matt, the answer is here: “All of these things are signs of the penitential nature of Advent . . . and so the penitential color of purple makes an appearance.”

December 14, 2011 at 7:55 pm
(3) john says:

Scott, that wasn’t the question. ‘Aren’t purple vestments usually worn during Lent?’ was the question, and that question is alluded to but not directly answered in the response.

December 24, 2011 at 8:29 pm
(4) Scott P. Richert says:

Not really, John. “Aren’t purple vestments usually worn during Lent?” was rhetorical; the reader makes it clear in the rest of his remark that he knows that to be true. He’s wondering why something “more festive” isn’t worn during Advent. And the answer, as I made clear, is that Advent, like Lent, is a penitential season. Just as purple vestments are used during the penitential season of Lent, they’re used during the penitential season of Advent, because purple is the Church’s penitential color.

September 13, 2012 at 11:39 pm
(5) Agnes says:

Matt & John,
Scott P. Richert is right. In addition, in a Catholic Liturgical Calendar, we follow certain colors as symbols for such occasion. Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. If you notice, there are three purple candles and 1 pink candle on the Advent wreath. Though Advent is not yet Christmas time, we are hopeful for our salvation. Christmas is another part of the Liturgical Year.

October 29, 2012 at 10:44 pm
(6) BOOP says:


November 5, 2012 at 11:07 am
(7) Steven says:

Sorry, Boop, neither did your comment. Mr. Richert is absolutely correct. The question was not “what does purple mean in advent?”.
St. Paul asks us to say only that which will help another person. (Eph 4:29) Please, let’s try to be civil in our postings as the Internet is like Las Vegas: What is posted on the Internet stays on the Internet!

OK, a further explanation, perhaps?

For advent, Purple = Penitence and Preparation. Both were succinctly addressed by Mr. Richert. To fully address what penitence and preparation from the Church’s standpoint is well beyond the scope of this blog-style website (read “somewhere around 3000 words”).

Advent is not the same as Christmas. At Christmas: yes, we do wear white in celebration. We do not green (Ordinary Time) and certainly not red (Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Pentecost, feasts of martyrs).

I hope it helps all.
An anonymous Catholic deacon

December 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm
(8) CatholicTeen says:

On a similar level- Why is the color green the color of ordinary time? I do understand that this color is significant to prosperity, but wht does that have to do with “ordinary time”? Why green? Why not tan or khacki?

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