Why Purple? Why Veiled?

I went to mass at my local parish tonight ( Saturday Mar. 7th ). The colors were purple tonight and I wondered why. I also noticed the crucifix was veiled with purple colored cloth.

I only go every other week or so. I am not Catholic.

Can someone explain the symbolism and teaching behind what I am seeing ?


Purple is the liturgical color for Lent, I believe, and since it’s the season of Lent, the color is purple this time of year.

By the way, in case you want to follow the scriptural readings: Daily Mass readings

Purple is used to signify penance and mourning. It was a custom for hundreds of years to veil crucifixes and statues in the church during Lent, the season of penance. You must have visited a more traditional Catholic parish where this is still done; some wait until Palm Sunday to do this now. Don’t know why.
On Easter, the purple will be ceremoniously removed and, amid Alleluias, white or gold vestments and decorations will appear, signifying the joy of the Ressurrection.

Purple is the liturgical color of the two penitential seasons in the Church year-- Advent and Lent. This is the second Sunday of Lent.

The veiling of the crucifix is a long-standing tradition during Lent although not done everywhere. It is then unveiled on Good Friday for veneration of the cross.

Here are a couple of nice websites with info on the Liturgical Year:


Purple or violet is the liturgical of the Penitential season of Lent. The Crucifix and the statues are only supposed to be covered during Holy Week the last week of Lent.

Thanks for the answers. The mass readings are great. I picked up a booklet when I went the Saturday before Lent they were handing the readings out.

Its kind of a long story but the short one is this is the first year I have ever observed Lent in any form. In a bit of a round about way. I took ashes at a Lutheran church where my wife is attending ( yah yah I know Lutheran isn’t Catholic but its a lot closer than the far flung regions of protestantism where we started. ). I am reading the scriptures from the mass readings aloud while the family eats breakfast. I usually only take coffee. And by way of fast I am not consuming cheese.

As to the parish being traditional. My wife complained the music was “70’s flower children” and wanted me to find a parish without tamborines and marracas. Though this week they only had piano and two stringed instruments. The cantor did a great job with some english chanting and we sang one song in Latin, Gloria Dei I think. Previous weeks we have not had any chanting or latin hymns.

So purple till the end of Lent.


Crucifixes veiled before the 5th Sunday? Gloria during Lent? This parish sounds like it’s making up its own rules.

Ok so don’t quote me on that song title. Probably I got it wrong.

While I’ve never encountered this myself, I have heard that a lot of churches do the Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin for Lent, maybe you heard the Agnus Dei.

You may have heard the Agnus Dei. During Lent, our parish sings the Kyrie Eleison (Greek), the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei.

I wish we’d do it all year.

It was Agnus Dei thanks for correcting me.

The coverings should not be put up until Saturday 28 March 2009.

The Roman Missal’s rubrics for Saturday of the fourth week of Lent have:
“The practice of covering crosses and images in the church may be observed, if the episcopal conference decides. The crosses are to be covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s passion on Good Friday. Image are to remain covered until the beginning of the Easter vigil.”
(Roman Missal, Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, 1985, page 113.)

There does not seem to be any requirement that the coverings be purple.

The vestment colours are as direction in the 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) approved for the USA, which can be accessed from romanrite.com/girm.html :
“346. As to the color of sacred vestments, the traditional usage is to be retained: namely, …
d. Violet or purple is used in Advent and of Lent. It may also be worn in Offices and
Masses for the Dead (cf. below). …
f. Rose may be used, where it is the practice, on Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of
Advent) and on Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent). …”

I don’t know if this is legitimate, but I’ve seen the crucifix draped with purple, rather than covered. In other words, the cloth is hanging down the arms of the crucifix, rather than covering the whole thing. This might be the case here, although I don’t know whether or not that makes a difference.

Actually, it does. I know what you are talking about because we drape our large cross in purple on Good Friday and in white for the Vigil and the entire Easter season. Draping it is different from veiling since veiling is meant to ‘hide’ it rather than emphasize it.

Purple is also the color of the robes that Jesus was draped in by the Roman soldiers. Purple is also the color of royalty - i.e. Christ the King.

Don’t be surprized if some churches don’t drape the statues and crosses. Our church is over 150 years old. So the statues and the altars they are on are that old as well. I can see not wanting to drape and undrape for fear of damaging them. But we do hang purple panels in appropriate places.

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