Q. Why, on the Third Sunday of Advent, are the priest’s vestments pink, and the third candle in the Advent wreath as well?
A. The color is actually designated by the Church as rose rather than pink. That brighter color signifies joy in the midst of what is otherwise traditionally considered a somber penitential season. (Unfortunately, the secular culture around us tends to treat the weeks leading up to Christmas as an extended party time instead.)
All the rest of the Advent season, of course, features purple as the liturgical color, because its dark hue symbolizes both penance and the royal status of Jesus Christ, the King. But the Third Sunday in Advent is symbolized by rose instead, because it’s known as Gaudete Sunday, “Rejoice Sunday.”
Gaudete comes from the first word of the Introit (Entrance Antiphon) in the Liturgy of the Mass for that day, which reads in Latin: Gaudete in Domino semper, iterum dico, Gaudete. … Dominus prope est. These words come from St. Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice. … Indeed, the Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4–5).
In this way, Gaudete Sunday serves as glimmer of light in the darkness, of joy in the midst of sorrow, of hope in Our Lord’s salvation as we move ever closer toward Him in penance and preparation. If, indeed, “the Lord is near,” we have reason to rejoice! The rose color of the vestments and the Advent wreath candle remind us of that unparalleled joy.