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Subdued joy for Gaudete Sunday

Louis J. Tofari


The Third Sunday of Advent is also known as "Gaudete Sunday" from the first word of the Introit antiphon chant.


It is on this Sunday that we see the unique Roman custom at Mass of using rose-colored vestments in place of violet ones to signify the mood of subdued joy.[1]

The Church presents us with this color change to indicate that our Advent penances and expectation for the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ are nearly fulfilled.

The Roman rose is a mixture of the colors violet (which signifies penance) and of purple (which signifies joy),[2] thus what is called “subdued joy”. This liturgical color should also be more of a pastel hue, and not pink.


In addition to the customary rose vestments, this tone of subdued joy is reinforced visually with the allowance of flowers on the altar and audibly with the use of the organ[3]—both signs of joy that have been prohibited since the First Sunday of Advent.[4]


The Introit (taken from St. Paul's letter to the Philippians) also sings forth in a confident and joyful tone:


Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestrae innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine, terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob. Gloria Patri...

Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men: for the Lord is nigh. Be nothing solicitous: but in every prayer let your petitions be made known to God. O Lord, thou hast blessed thy land: thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob. Glory be...




The Communion antiphon from Isaias the Prophet ends the Mass on a note of subdued joy and encouragement for our continuance of Advent:


Dicite: pusillanimes confortamini, et nolite timere: Ecce Deus noster veniet, et salvabit nos.

Say: Ye fainthearted, take courage and fear not: behold our God will come, and will save us.




It should also be noted that while these signs of joy are manifested, nevertheless the Gloria is still not sung, thus emphasizing that our joy is only partial at this time—for the penitential period of Advent is still not fulfilled.


In fact, it is this third week that features the traditional Ember Days of Advent, which help us to redouble our efforts to prepare ourselves well for the coming of the Savior.


As an additional note, the Station Church for Third Sunday of Advent was held at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Rome. Dom Gueranger comments on this significance in his monumental work, The Liturgical Year:

This august temple, which contains the tomb of the prince of the apostles, is the home and refuge of all the faithful of the world; it is but natural that it should be chosen to witness both the joy and the sadness of the Church.



1 The use of rose is merely a Roman custom, but not an absolute rubric. Thus if rose vestments are not available, or partially or wholly, then violet is retained as necessary. E.g., many parishes may have a rose Low Mass set, but not a rose-colored antependium, tabernacle veil or missal stand veil; in such cases, the violet ones are used with the rose vestments.


2 It should be noted that the shade of purple is not actually a liturgical color, but one used for the vesture of prelates, that is, their skullcap, choir cassock, etc. The color purple is related to the use of royalty, thus the phrase "the royal purple" and signifies the joy of the office.


3 That is, beyond the mere use of accompanying the choir.


4 An exception to this rule is on I or II class feasts that fall within Advent, such as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th.

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