September 29-October 7, 2001
volume 12, no. 150

The Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar

Part Eleven: Liturgical Colors

    At Mass various colors are used, according to the season and event being commemorated, these colors being: white, red, green, purple, and black. The latter is seldom used anymore for funerals are celebrated with white vestments today. The Requiem Mass has been greatly changed.

    In the early days of the Church, the vestments were of one color, white, though black was also used for mourning. In our times, not only the priest's vestments, but the tabernacle curtain, veil, and antependium are in the prescribed color.

    White vestments are worn on the festivals of Our Lord, except those of His Passion; they are also used for the feasts of Our Lady, and of Virgins and Confessors. White symbolizes purity and joy; hence its use for Our Lord and virgins.

    Red vestments are used at Pentecost, in commemoration of the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of tongues of fire. Red is likewise used on the feasts of martyrs and Apostles, and on the feasts of the Holy Cross on September 14th. Red is the color of fire and blood; hence its use for Pentecost and for martyrs is very appropriate.

    Green vestments are prescribed on Sundays after the Epiphany and after Pentecost, that is, outside Lent and Advent, except when some special festival requires another color. Gold may be substituted on solemn feasts for white, red, and green. Green is the symbol of hope and growth; hence its use for the greater part of the year.

    Purple, or violet vestments are worn during Advent and Lent, as well as for Vigils, Rogation Days, and Ember Days. The latter three are practically non-existent today. Vigils are the days preceding great festivals. As purple is a penitential color, it is fitting to use it during the seasons of special penance, Advent and Lent. It also used to be used on December 28 Feast of the Holy Innocents, to show the sympathy of the Church towards the mothers of the first martyrs. Today it is red for they are truly martyrs.

    On Gaudete and Laudate Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent and the third Sunday of Lent respectively the color Rose is allowed as a symbol of rejoicing at the midpoint of both penitential seasons.

    For centuries black vestments were used at ceremonies for the dead, and on Good Friday. However, at the funerals of children who die before the age of reason, white vestments are used, to express the joy we should feel at the knowledge that an innocent one is Home. Today that has been adopted for all.

September 29-October 7, 2001
volume 12, no. 150
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