This Sunday is the third in Advent and in liturgical churches up and down the land, while most other normal people go shopping, someone will be lighting a pink candle, aka ‘the pink one’, for Gaudete (Rejoice!) Sunday.
When someone used to mention pink, I would think of girls’ tutus, or sugary nougat, or a useful highlighter pen. Since I went into the Church, I’ve become aware of the liturgical attachment some people have to pink (aka ‘rose’).
The Church’s colour for Advent is purple – and I get to take my favourite stole out (several shades of blue on the front, purple on reverse) and in church we light purple candles on the Advent wreath. Depending on your Advent candle pack, you normally light a purple on Advent Sunday, another the week after (week 2 of Advent) and then you get to the pink in week 3.
Contrary to popular opinion, this is not the one for Mary.
The Advent themes are well suited to dark purple; after all, heaven, hell, death and judgment are sombre topics. Some clergy attempt to preach on nothing else during Advent, but with Carol concerts featuring Jingle Bells and primary schools bulk buying gold star costumes, I would imagine only the hardcore manage it (I’m normally buying singing reindeer by 10th December, for an all age talk).
So the pink candle represents a lightening up of Advent sombreness, a kind of ‘keep going, we’re almost there’ – and some clergy even wear pink (“rose”) vestments, just for this one ‘pink’ Sunday of the year. I haven’t ventured this far liturgically, though if someone were to gift me a pink/rose stole, I would not be averse..
So far, so good. The complication arises in that at the same time as the purple, purple, pink, purple thing, there are also four themes to the lectionary readings developing each Sunday:
Sunday 1=the Patriarchs
Sunday 2=the Prophets (NB: this confusingly features a reading about John the Baptist, but that’s just to catch you out…it’s not his Sunday yet, it’s simply to show that he was in the tradition of the OT prophets).
Sunday 3=John the Baptist
So whichever way you count it, the pink one has nothing to do with Mary. Despite obviously Mary being a girl, and pink for a girl, etc. Also if you have rose vestments there’s a chance you might be of a slightly more Catholic persuasion, and Catholics venerate Mary, therefore pink for ….well you can see how the confusion comes about…
So, for all you C of E aficionados, just to see where you are on the Advent/purple/pink scale, feel free to take this small season-specific liturgical test.
On a scale of 1-10, how Advent-aware are you?
1. Never even heard of Advent (not recommended).
2. Used to love it when they made the Advent wreath on Blue Peter (it’s a start).
3. Advent wreaths are all very well but our church doesn’t go in for it (you’ve saved yourselves a lot of complications but your lives might just be a little duller).
4. We have an Advent wreath at church but I’ve no idea what the candles stand for (good job you’re reading this).
5. We have an Advent wreath but all four of the candles are red (possibly more straightforward, but less fun).
6. We have the pink one but I thought it was for Mary (see point 4).
7. We have a pink candle and the pink+John the Baptist clash has always left me feeling liturgically confused (me too, as soon as I realised the pink was not for Mary, which happened a full 3 years into ordained ministry).
The last 3, for clergy only:
8. Pink candle; pink (rose) stole.
9. Pink candle; pink stole; pink chasuble.
10. Pink candle; pink stole; pink chasuble; pink walls throughout the vicarage.
Wherever you are on the Advent-aware scale, Happy Third Sunday in Advent.