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Is blue permitted in place of Advent purple?

Q. Is blue permitted during Advent in place of the traditional purple candles and vestments?

A. Blue, a color traditionally associated with Our Lady, is prescribed as the liturgical color in Spain and some Latin American countries for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is also used for other Marian feasts in some Eastern Catholic churches. But nowhere is blue prescribed in the Roman Rite in the U.S. for Advent or for any other time.

Nevertheless, some parishes have replaced the traditional purple furnishings of Advent with blue ones, with various reasons given for the change. However, purple has an important, specific and ancient dual meaning: It is the color both of penance and of royalty.

It’s not surprising, then, that the Church instructs us not to tamper with this and similar aspects of our liturgical customs. When we do, we lose the intended significance of the custom, and we distance ourselves needlessly from earlier generations of the faithful who trusted the wisdom of the Church enough to maintain the tradition faithfully.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) provides the Church’s authoritative rules for celebrating Mass. Here’s what it has to say about the matter:

“346. As to the color of sacred vestments, the traditional usage is to be retained: namely, … Violet or purple is used in Advent and Lent. … Rose [pink] may be used, where it is the practice, on Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and on Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent).”

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