"Priests don't wear pink, we wear rose". So starts almost every introduction to the Mass or homily I've heard on the Fourth Sunday of Lent. That is because the color of the day can be rose, even if it looks pink.
Aside from the possible comedic value of seeing your priest dressed in a color perhaps more suited to bubble gum, what is the point of the rose vestments and all the rest?
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetare Sunday. It gets its name from the first word (in Latin) of the Entrance Antiphon, "Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her." Laetare Sunday is a chance for us to pause and remember the whole point of Lent, said beautifully in the Prayer over the People where God is asked to "give life by your unfailing light to those who walk in the shadow of death, and bring those rescued by your mercy from every evil to reach the highest good." We see this rejoicing in the liturgy with the possibility of rose vestments, the allowance for flowers and the playing of instrumental music (but, lest we forget it is still Lent, the Gloria and Alleluia are not sung), it is not quite like every other Sunday of Lent.
By this Sunday we are well into Lent and sometimes we might lose the forest through the trees. We might forget that we know the end of the story. Yes, there is suffering, yes there is death, but we can rejoice in the fact that death does not have the last word. "Be joyful" the Entrance Antiphon continues "all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast".
On this Laetare Sunday, we are called to rejoice because we know what is coming. The Collect for the day asks that "with prompt devotion and eager faith the Christian people may hasten toward the solemn celebrations to come".
We rejoice because Easter is almost here. We rejoice because our Salvation has been won for us. Yes, we still have more Lent, yes Good Friday is coming, but for this one Sunday, in a special way, we rejoice and remember that the battle is already won. And rose still looks pink.
Rebecca Spellacy is the Associate Director for Liturgy in the Office of Formation for Discipleship at the Archdiocese of Toronto. Her Lenten series continues on Our Faith Alive next week.