The color has a great deal of symbolism. During the sorrowful season of Lent, it has become a habitual practice for priests of the Roman Rite to wear vestments of the color violet. This is a tradition that was adopted gradually because initially priests only wore the color white.
During ancient times, the color violet (Purple) was associated with royalty. As History explains on how to make the color purple, “dye-makers had to break open the shell of the snail, extract a purple-producing mucus and make it visible to sunlight for a specific amount of time. It took as long as 250,000 mollusks to yield just one ounce of usable dye, but the result was a vibrant and long-lasting shade of purple”.
Over many centuries the color lost its connection to royalty and then became gradually more and more symbolic of penance and sorrow for sin. When the Roman soldiers mimicked Jesus before his crucifixion, they “clothed him in a purple cloak, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on him” (Mark 15:17).
Then Pilate introduced Jesus to the crowd, saying, “what shall I do with the man whom you call the King of the Jews?” (Mark 15:12). From this particular scene, purple became associated with the Passion and Death of Jesus. From then Henceforth, Christians saw purple as a reminder of Jesus’ Passion, with the color itself a call to repentance for sin.
Violet, therefore, became a perfect color for the Lenten season, calling to mind the passion of Jesus, our call to repentance, and even the reality that Jesus is the true “King of kings” who takes charge over our hearts.