The Armchair Liturgist: Advent Blues

The long-simmering discussion for many conservatives is the use of blue during Advent. There are a few distinctions, often overlooked, I think. First, I see very little blue replacing purple these days. I think this is the barbell memory of many conservatives, like Father Z, who seem to focus on some long-ago offense, possibly before they were even born. Second, blue works quite well as a complement to Advent purple. Few churches I’ve seen are monochromatic in their approach to any other liturgical season, even ordinary time. So why would Advent be different? Banning blue seems extreme.

I’ve never read anything that would counterindicate one couldn’t use the color blue somewhere in an Advent church. When I reproduced the Advent wreath pic in the last Armchair Liturgist post, I noticed the candle color didn’t really get captured by my cell phone. The banners behind the Advent Angels look even bluer in the distance. I wondered if I’d draw any comment on that.

So sit in the (appropriately) purple chair and render judgment. Should blue replace purple? Is using blue as part of a palette including purple appropriate? Or is the ban on any blue appropriate?

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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5 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: Advent Blues

  1. I’m sitting in the purple chair and exhorting my sisters and brothers in Christ to serve the poor, lift up the brokenhearted and stop squabbling over stuff like what might — or might not — be the “right” color for Advent.

  2. Gavin says:

    I had never run into blue until my first Episcopalian job. And I still haven’t seen it used by a Catholic priest once.

    The furor (which I find far overblown) isn’t over the use of blue period. It’s over the replacing of purple vestments with blue. Why is this such a big issue in some quarters? I don’t know, but then I don’t know why someone would ignore the Church’s plain directive either.

    My Episcopal church (being of the Sarum use) uses blue vestments, and frankly I don’t like it. It just isn’t an aesthetically pleasing color, or maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing. I like the suggestion to use a somewhat bluer purple for Advent. Also, it’s worth mentioning that in Germany it is permissible to use blue vestments for Marian feasts.

  3. Mike K says:

    The “liturgically correct” color for Advent is violet.

    However, nowhere does it say that blue hangings cannot be used in the church during Advent.

    Some churches use a “brighter” shade of violet during Advent and a “darker” shade of violet during Lent. Ironically, that makes the “Advent violet” more red and the “Lenten violet” more blue; I would think you’d want the Lenten violet more red, considering the end of Lent brings us the Triduum, which includes Jesus’ shedding his blood for the foregiveness of our sins.

    Also, I’ve seen violet vestments with blue orpheys used during Advent and with dark red orpheys used during Lent.

    Bottom line: as long as the base – and predominant – color of the vestments and related paraments is some shade of violet, you’re OK.

    Gavin, is the permissions to use blue vestments for Marian feasts in Germany widespread, or applied narrowly? I know that Mexico and one diocese in Spain are permitted to use blue vestments for Marian feasts, and that they are prescribed in the eastern Churches. But I had never heard of such permission in Germany. Also, the blue used for Marian feasts ranges from a lighter “true” blue to a sky blue – certainly not a penitential color!

    Part of the reason there is such a furor over blue vestments replacing violet is because Advent is seen as a penitential season, though less so than Lent. Some people of other traditions see Advent more as a season of hope – therefore, the blue is a more “hopeful” version of violet.

    I prefer to interpret it this way:
    – Advent is a season of preparation (for the birth of Christ), of which penance is a part
    – Lent is a season of penance in preparation for the commemoration of the great mysteries of our faith, which occur during Holy Week and – of course – on Easter Sunday

    Both definitions mention penance, hence violet vestments.

    Ironically, the Catholic Church allows for a “more hopeful” violet – rose – on the third Sunday of Advent and the fourth Sunday of Lent.

  4. Jono says:

    Liturgical colors may be different from the norm for a legitimate reason. For instance, the Pope “mourns in red,” owing to ancient custom (rather than violet or black). Similarly, I have heard that White is avoided during the Christmas and Easter seasons for Japan, as it would cause confusion with white being associated with mourning in that culture.

    As there would be no confusion in our own culture, and since our custom has always been to use violet vestments, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to use any color but violet in our case.

    With regard to having other decorations in blue, nothing really forbids (save for antependia for the altar, perhaps). However, one would have to be a better decorator than I am to make it work.

    On the subject of the rose vestments, I always saw it as a mix of white with the penitential color. An “already, not yet,” sort of thing. We’re still waiting for the joy of Christmas or Easter, but there is joy even in the anticipation and being so close.

  5. Matthew Meloche says:

    I remember seeing a blue chasuble (thankfully never used) in the back of a vestment closet at the church I used to work at. It had butterfly patterns. I’m sure Advent was “very special” back when they were used.

    I wouldn’t have any problem with blue accents if they were tastefully done. I’d rather just have violet though.

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