Vestments come in different colors to mark the distinctive character of the liturgical day we are celebrating. The liturgical calendar is the appointment of specific days of the year to remember the great example of the saints. We can think of these like birthdays or anniversaries – they happen on the same date of each year. Throughout the year there are also seasons to the liturgical calendar.
The liturgical year starts with season of Advent followed by the season of Christmas. Ordinary time follows for a few weeks, before we begin Lent for a period of 6 weeks. Then the three-day season of the Triduum (latin for “three days”) includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Easter begins with the Vigil of the Resurrection on the evening of Holy Saturday. Easter then goes for 7 weeks until Pentecost. Then we resume Ordinary time were we left off before Lent.
The vestment colors match the character of the liturgical days and seasons. Below is a list of the colors and the seasons or saints’ feast days for which they are used.
Red – Used in celebrating Good Friday, when Jesus shed His blood in atonement for our sins, and on Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles as tongues of flame. Red is also worn when we celebrate the martyrs, who shed their blood in witness to the Faith.
Green – Worn during Ordinary time. Ordinary time celebrates the working of the Holy Spirit; green reminds us of the growth (like the plants and trees in the springtime) that the Holy Spirit wants to bring in our relationship with God. During Ordinary time we hear about Jesus’ miracles, teachings, and example which helps us to grow closer to the Lord.
Violet – Used in the seasons of penance, Advent and Lent. These season are marked by purification and preparation so that we are ready for the coming feasts.
Rose – Used on two Sundays, both of them halfway through the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent. They symbolize the lightening of the heart because the time of penance is closer to an end and rejoicing will soon begin with the coming of Christmas or Easter, respectively.
Black – Not commonly seen, but this color can be used on All Souls day and at funerals. These days are marked by mourning for those we loved who have died. The priest wears black because the Church here on earth is in mourning, however the vestments are trimmed in silver or gold – a sign that we have a reason to hope in the Resurrection of the dead into Eternal Life.
Check back over the next few weeks for subsequent articles on the liturgical vestments.
Isn't it strange how many Christians, who take their time and have leisure enough in their social life (they are in no hurry), in following the sleepy rhythm of their professional affairs, in eating and recreation (no hurry here either), find themselves rushed and want to rush the Priest, in their anxiety to shorten the time devoted to the most holy Sacrifice of the Altar?
- St. Josemaría Escrivá