Cecilia Rexworthy of Watts & Co. considers vestments for use on Gaudete Sunday


The rarest of liturgical colours, rose is used on only two Sundays of the year, Gaudete Sunday in Advent and Laetare Sunday in Lent. Some parishes, through choice or budget constraints, may bypass this seemingly indulgent addition to their sacristy, but the symbolism of the rose vestments is an ancient and beautiful one.

Rose (not to be confused with pink), is worn on the 3rd Sunday of Advent and the 4th Sunday of Lent. In Advent the usual liturgical colour is purple and has a twofold significance. The Advent purple is not only the traditional colour of penance, but it is also the colour of royalty. From the first Sunday of Advent, the Church in her liturgy awaits the arrival of the Saviour, the King of Kings. In the beautiful Advent antiphons sung at vespers, known as the ‘O Antiphons’, one of the key musical features of the days leading up to Christmas, the nations long for their king: O Rex Gentium (‘O King of the nations, and their desire’) and O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster (‘O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver’).

This longing is temporarily eased by a glimpse of fulfilment and a surge of hope and joy on Gaudete Sunday, also known as ’Rose Sunday’: the opening prayer of the mass urges all people to rejoice: Gaudete! Indeed the Introit, repeating the words of St Paul to the Philippians, is most insistent: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice’. And as a visual cue to emphasise this joy, the penitential purple is lightened to rose. The world’s wait is coming to an end. Christmas is near.