WDTPRS POLL: Color of Advent Vestments and my annual rant

Some veteran readers here know about my annual rant about BLUE vestments during Advent.

Blue is not a liturgical color of the Roman Rite (though some use it for Marian feasts according to some old tradition in Spain and former Spanish territories).

Blue vestments for Advent are contrary to the Church’s liturgical law.  Purple or violet are to be used, and rosacea for the 3rd Sunday as an option.

Of course there are distinctions to be made about purple and violet.  Some say that a reddish purple is to be used for Lent while a bluer purple is to be used for Advent.

Fine.  So long as the Advent color isn’t blue, I don’t care.

Happily, I think this old abuse is trailing off.  But let’s find out!

Let’s have a little poll!

Chose the best answer and leave a comment in the combox, below.

What color vestments have you seen this Advent where you go to Mass? (We'll get to Rose, later.)

View Results

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In the meantime…

[CUE MUSIC]

Mystic MonkWhen you’ve had a hard time trying to figure out just what that color is Father is wearing this week, just what possessed him to put on a vestment that ugly, why not relax with a Say The Black – Do The Red coffee mug filled to its steaming brim with Mystic Monk Coffee?

Yes, folks, you may be unaware of this, but drinking Mystic Monk Coffee actually fights against liturgical abuse.  The more Mystic Monk Coffee your priests drink, the less they will commit liturgical abuses.  This is especially true when they are drinking if from Say The Black – Do The Red coffee mugs!

Do you want liturgical abuses on your conscience?

Mystic Monk Coffee.

It’s swell!

BTW… if anyone wants to send their own recording of O Come O Come Liturgical Blue, here are the words.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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38 Responses to WDTPRS POLL: Color of Advent Vestments and my annual rant

  1. dcs says:

    Some say that a reddish purple is to be used for Lent while a bluer purple is to be used for Advent.

    I wonder where people come up with this stuff. Imagine all the money a parish could save by having only one set of vestments for Advent and Lent.

  2. math4jedi says:

    I was traveling for the 1st Sunday of Advent and encountered navy blue vestments, I tried hard to see even a drop of red in them so I could convince myself they were a very very blue purple but that didn’t work. At home we had purple last Sunday. I know there are rose on hand for next Sunday because I remember when they were new. (I voted blue)

  3. MJ says:

    I once made the mistake of using the words “purple/pink” to refer to the Advent vestments (instead of “violet/rose”)…apparently our priests don’t like to hear people say, “Look at Father’s pink vestments!” ;-)

  4. Purple here in Romania, at least among Lutherans. I mentioned to some colleagues that blue was used in the United States, and they started laughing.

    I do own rose vestments, and wear them when the times come, at least at home. And I’m not the least embarrassed to call them “pink,” so long as they aren’t actually, you know, pink.

  5. robertotankerly says:

    Agreed, the use of blue vestments is liturgically illicit. It qualifies as a liturgical abuse and is in no way justifiable.

    Nevertheless, even though historically Advent came about as a sort of mini-Lent to precede Christmas, aren’t there reasons the Church might allow the use of blue vestments and hangings during Advent?

    The direct association (through color) of Advent with Lent might suggest to some the characters of the two seasons are exactly the same. Might it not be a good idea to differentiate the sober/expectant mood of Advent from the strictly penitential Lent?
    The season’s connection to Mary and her expectant joy at the coming of the Savior: how as a result of her Motherhood her protective mantle is now spread over the whole world in the blue sky (which also calls up images of the night sky in which both the star and angels appeared).
    The season’s connection to St. John: the color of the water used in his ritual Baptism, now elevated to the Sacrament of Faith.
    Of course, it could also be said that the entire Christmas cycle culminates in the Feast of the Baptism on the Octave of Epiphany.
    Either that or it culminates in the Purification, which is a Marian feast.

    I’m sure there are more reasons than those I’ve come up with just now.

    [And yet it remains that blue is not approved for use. When it is, I will be the first to have a Roman set made complete with maniple, burse and chalice veil.]

  6. marypatricia says:

    Your podcast was lovely. Would you consider making another one with the proper words?
    I always found that hymn pretty dreary and wished there was a more uplifting alternative, but for the first time in my life I actually enjoyed listening to it. [I have quite a few versions of the tune playing on Radio Sabina right now. You can listen to them and watch birds eat the food people's donations have paid for.]

  7. Childermass says:

    Father, you should put a warning—no drinking Mystic Monk coffee until after the song is over!

  8. Childermass: I hope you don’t put sugar and cream in your coffee. That can make a real mess with a screen and cause problems for keyboards.

  9. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Our new parochial vicar – a fine young priest originally from Nigeria – wore purple vestments that bore a portait of his countryman, Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi.

  10. Tim Ferguson says:

    Something just popped into my head while reading this post:

    Please don’t wear blue vestments this season,
    The Church says vi-o-let’s more pleasin’,
    For Gaudete, wear rose: your fidelity shows,
    Your choice in vesture says more than you suppose!

    Please ditch the blue vestments this season,
    “The rubrics say so” ’s the reason,
    Then on Christmas Eve night, you can wear gold or white,
    But please don’t wear blue, blue vestments.

    With apologies, of course, to Mr. Presley and the others who’ve recorded “Blue Christmas.”

    [You da man... again.]

    I agree that the fad of blue vestments seems to have faded in many places, but in others it’s still going strong. I, too, have no constitutional problem with blue vestments as such, but in most of the Latin Rite, they are simply not allowed. Now, if the new Anglican ordinariates are permitted to utilize the palette of liturgical colors from the old Sarum Use, perhaps we could find a suitable home for all the decent blue chasubles that have been mistakenly crafted and stored in Latin Catholic parish sacristies…

  11. priests wife says:

    Even in la-la land (So Cal) I’ve never seen blue vestments during Advent- most churches use the same sets for Advent and Lent

  12. frjim4321 says:

    Wasn’t there a picture of the pope recently in blue vestments?

    Yes:

    http://romanmiscellany.blogspot.com/2007/09/that-blue-chasuble.html

    PS: I am not saying I LIKE them, I’m just saying they were blue, and the pope wore them.

  13. I’ve never seen blue vestments. The abuse I see is priests refusing to wear rose vestments on Gaudete Sunday and Laetare Sunday.

  14. Daniel Latinus says:

    Wasn’t there a picture of the pope recently in blue vestments?

    Yes:

    http://romanmiscellany.blogspot.com/2007/09/that-blue-chasuble.html

    PS: I am not saying I LIKE them, I’m just saying they were blue, and the pope wore them.

    I don’t know if I’d characterize those vestments as blue: they looked like a blue-flourescent green tie-dye. One priest called it “the amazing technicolor nightmare.”

    It is, of course, significant that the Papal Master of Ceremonies who allowed this was replaced shortly thereafter.

  15. frjim4321: I guess the Pope can set aside prohibitions on blue vestments if he wants to for a particular occasion. I would be really surprised, however, if the Jackson Pollock vestments were HIS idea.

    But aren’t there some places where they have special permission to wear blue vestments on certain Marian feasts?

  16. takosan says:

    Last year when you posted this I showed it to my 9 year old daughter. We have not discussed it since then.

    This week I heard my three year old daughter singing away, “… baby, navy, powder-puff and teal!” She apparently had picked it up from her older sister. This despite the fact that we sing the song (with traditional words, of course) every night as we light our advent candles.

    At least they will always know that blue is not a liturgical color. :)

  17. Emilio III says:

    The official calendar of the Spanish Episcopal Conference http://www.conferenciaepiscopal.es/liturgia/calendario2010/calendario.pdf lists white or blue as the colors for Wednesday’s Mass. It used to be permitted for other Marian feasts, but no longer. It should be “sky blue”. AFAIK, this is the only licit use of liturgical blue in the Latin rite. Note that the deacon that chants the Gospel in Greek at Papal Masses seems to be usually vested in blue, but of course he’s not in the Latin rite!

  18. Will D. says:

    The abuse I see is priests refusing to wear rose vestments on Gaudete Sunday and Laetare Sunday.

    Strictly speaking, I don’t believe that is an abuse. My calendar lists violet and rose as options on that day, in that order, without further comment.

  19. frjim4321 says:

    A fairly buttoned-down Benedictine in Kentucky showed us, a group of visiting seminarians, their blue vestments (this was mid-1970′s), and said that Benedictines were permitted blue vestments, most likely for Marian days. (I guess this is similar to the Fransican’s being permitted some feast days for Franciscan saints that are not on the normal calendar.)

  20. Alice says:

    Rev. Church,
    I work for a LCMS congregation and they’re doing blue for the very first time this year. (They used violet before.) I find it weird because I’m Roman Catholic and I’ve never, never seen blue used for Advent. I had never even heard of blue for Advent until my organ professor (raised Episcopalian, I believe) expressed surprise when I mentioned that violet was the Advent color for Catholics.

  21. frjim4321 says:

    Anita Moore OPL says:
    7 December 2010 at 6:10 pm
    I’ve never seen blue vestments. The abuse I see is priests refusing to wear rose vestments on Gaudete Sunday and Laetare Sunday.

    Anita: The vestments which you call “rose” (and which in actual practice are much closer in hue to true “pink”) are options, thus those who refuse to wear them are not guilty of any sort of abuse.

    For something to be an abuse it must be contrary to law, not simply something you personally dislike.

  22. Supertradmum says:

    And, what is really horrible are bluish-violet and pink 15 to 25 foot banners in my last church, with ribbons coming from the middle of a huge advent wreath made out of plastic tubing, held together with tape, with the ribbons draping over the congregation, to match the gigantic banners. Benedictines sometimes have no taste. To make matters even worse, when the heat came on, the ribbons and banners moved constantly-horrible, horrible.

  23. jmgazzoli says:

    A recent Sunday the main celebrant wore blue, while the concelebrant and deacon wore violet. However, the main celebrant went on to refer to his vestments as violet. The next Sunday all of them were wearing violet.

  24. Wayne NYC says:

    While researching things Advent related, I stumbled on this factoid;
    the use of the color blue as an appropriate vestment color during Advent
    was introduced by the lutheran church in Sweden and made its way to
    England where the Anglicans snatched it up. The Brits called it…wait for it…
    Sarum Blue !

  25. cblanch says:

    This is my second Advent in the town I live in (and I don’t remember this from last year), but both parishes are going with the blue now, sad to say. I didn’t know this was a liturgical abuse, but I knew for certain it was an aesthetic abuse. This navy shade they’re using is HORRID! I was equally horrified by the two teen Ann and Nancy Wilson look-a-likes wearing their Little Queen album garb while dancing in circles down the aisle with lit candles as we started Mass last Sunday. Arrrggggh!

  26. Sarah L says:

    I’m writing my master’s thesis on vestments in the Episcopal Church, and one verger (as they call their sacristans) at an historic parish was quite proud of their Advent blue. And then there was this thing called “Lenten array” – an earth tones jamboree of beige, scarlet, burgundy, and black.

  27. PaterAugustinus says:

    In the Orthodox Church, while we have general norms on points like Liturgical colours, nobody is scandalized if somebody is doing something different, within the bounds of piety and good taste. There’s just a basic expectation of adult competence, and of a mature piety from the trained clergy, at the least, but also from the faithful more generally. We also have a strong awareness of just how much these kinds of things fluctuate in the history of the Church. Older books proffer many different liturgical colours and colour schemes – yellow for Confessor’s feasts, the richest vestments (regardless of colour) for Great Feasts, etc. Blue was not only a Spanish custom, but a custom of some Sarum-Use dioceses (far afield from Salisbury herself), as well as of the Use of Braga. Someone above, says that it came from the Lutherans to England and was called “Sarum Blue.” In fact, it was called “Sarum Blue” because many of the Sarum books (which predate Lutheranism’s existence, even) called for it. The reason it perdures in sundry places, despite whatever “official” instructions may exist, is because the custom was used outside of Spain, and has obviously appealed to people outside of Spain, despite what the books “officially” called for in those locales. This is precisely how customs change over time; they are found pleasant to the faithful, and the Church (guided by the Spirit) gradually adapts new usages in different times and places.

    Over and against this natural and inevitable change in local custom, I’m constantly mystified by the way that so many traditionalists in Catholicism tend to view the Counter-Reformation, or 1963, as some kind of authoritative and ultimate crystallization of the “proper” customs, even on points that are clearly, easily changeable. It reminds me of the earlier debate on white vs. black Requiem vestments, where many on this list were convinced that white was an integral part of the impious “canonization” ceremony for the recently departed… whereas the far more ancient (and long-enduring standard) was to use white at funerals, and black only for subsequent Requiems. Rigidity on these points, comes from having less flexibility than the Church’s Tradition Itself.

    It seems like there should be a greater awareness of the fact that these points have always been in flux, and will always be in flux, and it’s a bit odd to take a principled stand against a particular liturgical colour, as though another use were abusive or impious in any intrinsic way (within bounds, obviously; perhaps white vestments with gold embroidery is not apt for Good Friday). In fact, Tradition tells us that variations in small points of custom is the norm, and not vice-versa. The Orthodox Church, after all, doesn’t stress norms or conformity or centralization anywhere near as much as Catholicism, yet Liturgical beauty and sobriety (and doctrinal cohesion) are defining elements of our Church. Of course, we think this is because we have adhered to the Apostolic Tradition in a special way, and that the Holy Spirit therefore continues to guard us on these points in a special way, and we pray that He may continue to do so.

    But, in either case, I can see why post-Vatican II Catholicism is gun-shy of “freedom” on sundry points of custom (given the horrors, which licentious libertines have introduced to Catholicism in the name of “freedom” and even “spiritual adulthood”). But, the problem isn’t “freedom,” per se, it’s the fact that people must be trained to use their Christian freedom as pious adults. If some locales use Blue vestments in good taste, with a nod to the many precedents for such a custom, why on Earth should anybody care?

  28. mike cliffson says:

    Spain, solemn vigil mass last night for the Immaculate Conception, processions, all sung, incensings, etc, the works ,blue , very blue, bright bright blue, vestments, which were striking (can you get lapus lazuli into cloth?, that was the effect) as they aint the standard advent, blue or otherwise.

  29. Desertfalcon says:

    @ Will D.,

    Not to mention that many priests simply don’t own them or have access to them.

  30. Joe in Canada says:

    PaterAugustinus; well said. Part of the problem in NA has been those who wear blue in Advent because they don’t think that the Church has Advent right. I was told by many a Priest growing up that purple was wrong because Advent is not a penitential season. So the colour of vestments becomes an ideological issue.

  31. JimGB says:

    At my parish we do not have blue. However, I am always a bit annoyed when it comes to the rose vestments. We have a very lovely old set of rose vestments, as you would expect in a church that is almost 100 years old. However, our pastor of two years, who cannot seem to find anything extant prior to his tenure to be to his satisfaction, went out and bought a new rose set. True to form, it appears to be made of something akin to burlap and is completely without any adornment whatsoever.

  32. irishgirl says:

    The priests at the TLM chapel I go to wear purple vestments, natch.
    On the afternoon of the First Sunday of Advent, I went to a Lessons and Carols service at the big Episcopal church here in my hometown. They had blue on their Advent wreath-blue candles and blue ribbons. There was also blue draped over the lectern where the Lessons were read.
    There was one Catholic parish I used to go to that used blue for their Advent vestments. As far as I know, that was the only one that did.
    Great ‘parody song’, Father Z! I was grinning ear to ear listening to it on my earpieces at the library. I remember this from last Advent.
    Tim Ferguson, you are definitely ‘da man’ when it comes to new lyrics for parodies!

  33. El Kabong says:

    Nice singin there padre.

  34. Jayna says:

    I’m not sure I see the connection between blue and Advent. Is it because it’s a Marian color?

    At any rate, my parish priests/deacons have been wearing violet vestments. Even if the decorations in the church are straight up purple (it clashes a bit, kind of like wearing different shades of black together).

  35. Dr. Eric says:

    I’m wearing blue today. ;-)

    I think that the Holy Father could wear blue because the Austrian Diocese he was in had an indult like Spain has.

  36. Filipe says:

    There are, AFAIK, only two places in Portugal where blue is allowed.

    Vila Viçosa, at the shrine of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Queen of Portugal, only used on feasts of OL.

    And the chaplaincy of the University of Coimbra, where students pledged belief in the immaculate conception since well before it was proclaimed a Dogma, only on the 8th December. The bishop usually presides.

    I have been trying to get to one of those places to actually see a mass celebrated in blue, but its difficult, specially since its my wedding anniversary (your blog is precisely as old as my marriage…)

    So yesterday I was surprised (and a little put off), to see the parish priest of the place I went to mass, celebrating in Blue… He used them because of the 8th, though, and not because of Advent.

  37. Sacristymaiden says:

    Here at Wyoming Catholic College the vestments are the very traditional violet, and I’m sure that we will have rose ones next Sunday.
    No blue vestments (as far as I know) have ever been beheld in the church. I actually think the students would revolt or something if that ever happened. I cannot even imagine what would happen…

  38. daniwcca says:

    Fr. Z, or fellow readers, how do I answer my mother in law, who says because Los Angeles WAS a Spanish Territory, it is ok for the Priest at the EF and NO to wear blue. Our lovely priest at the EF did wear blue.

    Thanks for your time…