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Why is Lent purple?

When looking around at your church, you may have noticed that some things look different during the Lenten season, perhaps the first being the use of purple during Mass. The priest’s chasuble (the outermost liturgical vestment) and the deacon’s dalmatic (a wide-sleeved long, loose vestment) are all purple. The altar is covered with a purple cloth.

Colours have always played an important part in the liturgy. According to Fr Michael Witczak, associate professor of liturgical studies at Catholic University in Washington and past president of the North American Academy of Liturgy, the colours “emerged out of the fact that people like variety, and the origin of colours are rooted in the meaning of an individual season”.

The choice of colour is neither random nor simply decorative; there is specific meaning during the liturgical year and colour becomes part of the way to honour a special occasion or sacrament.

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