Liturgical Colors

GIRM 346: "The colors white or black may be used at funeral services"

The liturgical colors authorized by the Catholic Church for use in the Roman rite include red, white, black, green, purple and rose. On solemn feast days, "sacred vestments of a gold or silver color can be substituted as appropriate for others of various colors but not for purple or black" as per paragraph 127 of Redemptionis Sacramentum, the 2004 instruction issued by Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW). Blue, however, is not universally permitted in the Roman rite liturgy.

Green is the most common liturgical color as it's used in Ordinary Time when there isn't a saint or sacred event being celebrated. According to a St. Joseph Daily Missal published in 1962, green is "the color of budding and living vegetation." This is appropriate for Ordinary Time which represents a period of growth after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It's also a "symbol of hope" in eternal life.

Rose is the least common liturgical color. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) number 346 authorizes its use only "on Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and on Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent)." During the rest of Advent and Lent, the use of purple is mandated. As per GIRM 346, purple may also be used at Masses for the Dead along with black, a symbol of mourning or white, a symbol of innocence and triumph over sin and death.

Red as a symbol of fire is used at Pentecost and as a symbol of blood is used for the feasts of martyrs. White is commonly used for other saints who were not martyrs. Such saints are called confessors as they died confessing or professing the Catholic faith.

Liturgical colors adorn the vestments worn by priests. They likewise color the chalice veil, tabernacle veil and burse, which carries the corporal in traditional Masses.

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Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th. is a staff writer for ChurchMilitant.com.

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