The Third Sunday of Advent is nicknamed “Gaudete … Rejoice!”, from the first word of the Introit chant. Gaudete is the counterpart of “Laetare … Rejoice!” Sunday during Lent. Today we relax slightly Advent’s penitential focus.
Some claim Advent is not a penitential time, even though it has always been considered such in centuries past. Many prayers in the Roman Rite during this preparatory season before Christmas are penitential and direct our thoughts to the Lord’s Coming at the end of the world.
Our vestments are violet or purple, as in Lent, though some like to use a bluish rather than reddish purple to differentiate Advent as less sombre, somewhat less focused on the penitential aspect.
Sometimes I describe Advent as a time of penitential joy, or joyful penitence.
We Catholics fast before our feasts. It is therefore a perennial tradition to exclude both flowers from the altar and instrumental music during this season, except only to sustain congregational singing.
Speaking of penitential purple, on Gaudete Sunday we have the option of using “rose” coloured vestments in imitation of Laetare Sunday in Lent. For centuries in Rome, popes blessed roses of gold on Laetare Sunday. A small leap of imagination resulted in rose vestments for that special day. The rose came to be seen as a softening of the season’s penitential character in view of the ever-closer joy of the upcoming feast.
The Roman rose colour is in Latin called rosacea, which is not the baby-rattle pink we sometimes see on these two Sundays. Roman rosacea is a bit darker, dusky, having a salmon tinge. I have also seen rose with a greyish or brownish hint, like the colours called “ashes of roses” or “old rose”. Results vary due to differences in dyes. Even if at your parish or chapel you have rose more akin to bubblegum than the antique rose, it is still nice to have the striking change of colour on Gaudete Sunday.
Another benefit of having rose on the Third Sunday is that you can more easily explain the colours of the candles that many people use on their Advent wreaths.
While some people use red or white candles, far and wide three of purple and one of pink or rose are common.
The colours of the candles therefore reflect the colour of the vestments used by the priest during Holy Mass on the Sundays of Advent.