Thursday, July 19, 2007


More on the symbolism of the liturgical colors.

Green, the first color mentioned in Scripture, is a sign of spring and vegetation representing our on going working out of our salvation. It is a symbol of life over death. The priest and altar appointments are decked in green during ordinary time, the liturgical season outside of the Lent/Easter, Advent/Christmas seasons. It is superseded by red or white for special feasts.

Purple is a symbol or royalty and power and also of sorrow and penance. It is used in advent (a borrowed term that was once used to describe that period of preparation for the arrival of the emperor) as we await the birth of Christ. It is also used during lent as a penitential symbol as we prepare for the joy of the resurrection of Jesus. In the United States, this color may also be used for funerals though it seems rare enough that it is.

A rose by any other name would still smell of pink. Actually that is incorrect. The color to be worn this day (and every time it comes up there will be hundreds of blog entries debating this) is a light purple, or rose, not pink. It is an optional color to be used only two days out of the entire liturgical year. The first day is Gaudete Sunday otherwise know as the third Sunday of Advent. Gaudete is the first word in the introit for this day, which translates from the Latin as "rejoice". Advent is half over. Christ is drawing nigh!

The second day that it may be used is on Laetare Sunday, which is known as the fourth Sunday in Lent. It too calls us to rejoice as the better part of lent is over and we grow closer to the great celebration of Easter.

Black symbolizes death, the underworld, and darkness. In the Unted States it is an optional color for masses for the dead, which includes All Souls Day. It is important to note that we are not wearing this color to mourn the end of the existence of a person (they are living the next life after all!) For this reason my funeral vestment (unless a person requests that I wear black) is white, to help mark the joy we celebrate for the person who is now living free of the cares of this world. But that vestment also has black banding on it to recognize and pay tribute to the very real fact that we are personally sad to have to be without the physical presence of our brother or sister for a spell.

These colors (along with those mentioned last Symbolic Saturday) are the only liturgical colors approved for use in the Latin Rite. Next Week: Other colors and their symbolic value in art.


Anonymous said...

perhaps it is selective memory, but i don't recall seeing black vestments ... or maybe i was too young.

Cathy said...

Our priests always wear black vestments for funerals.
I'm glad - tis my favorite liturgical color.

Father, how 'bout Rose? That's a nice one!

Cathy said...

Duh, how 'bout I read more carefully.