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Many Catholics and other Christians know that the beginning of the Lenten season starts with the rite for Ash Wednesday, a reminder that we are made from ashes, and to ashes we shall return. Purple fabrics serve as visual reminders of the liturgical season.

Purple is a color closely associated with royalty and luxury. It was a color present in Homer‘s Iliad, and was worn by royals like Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, Alexander the Great, and the kings of Ptolemaic Egypt. It’s a color with such rich history one must wonder what makes purple represent Jesus Christ’s passion?

Purple in the biblical passages

The color purple was mentioned a number of times in the Holy Bible. One was in the book of Exodus, where God instructed Moses to have the Israelites bring him an offering that includes cloths of blue, purple, and scarlet to be used as garments of priests and as curtains for the Tabernacle (a dwelling place of God).

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What makes it a defining color of Lent can be read in John 19:2, which says, “And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and put a purple robe on Him.”

Purple is a liturgical color that represents piety. It is also associated with the mourning, suffering, and pain brought about by the crucifixion. Moreover, it also represents repentance, which makes Lent not just a season to commemorate the sacrifices made by Jesus Christ, but also to seek forgiveness and to mend broken bonds.

Should we wear purple during Lent?

The Catholic Church may have strict observance on appropriate decorum when entering the house of God. The laity, or members of the church who are not ordained or who have religious vows, however, are not required to wear specific colors even during certain liturgical seasons.

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“It’s more of a help for people to recognize them [the clergy], as well as a reflection of the type of celebration during the liturgical year,” said Dr. Alan Schreck, professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, to ABC News. “Early on, church clothing was not so different from the dress of the people. After this, some of the clergy began to see the value of differentiating themselves, and adopted special clothing for identification purposes during the fourth century.”

What should you do during Lent?

Lent is a time to reconnect with God. To create a moment of silence where you can hear His word and listen to His call.

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During his speech at St. Peter’s Square on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis gave the following pieces of advice:

  • Turn off the television and open the Bible

  • Disconnect from cellular phones and connect to the Gospel

  • Give up useless word, chatter, rumors, gossips, and to speak directly to the Lord

  • Pray, fast, and do works of mercy

“Fasting is being capable of giving up the superfluous and going to the essential,” Pope Francis said. “It is seeking the beauty of a simpler life.”

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