Liturgical colours28 Apr 2015, by Sacraments in
I focused on the liturgical vestments in my previous post, but here I want to look at the liturgical colours. You would have observed that colors are essential in the Catholic Church, colours are essential; they are symbolic and express the season and nature of a particular celebration. The liturgical vestments, including the linen used in covering the altar, comes in different colours, and they tell a lot about the celebration.
However, as I said in my previous post, the alb means white, and it is always white, no matter the season or the celebration.
The colour of the vestment the priest puts on for a particular feast or celebration corresponds with the ones on the altar; if the colour of the day is white, then the vestments with which the priest vests and the altar linen must be white. The most popular and commonly used colours in the Church are Green, White, Gold, Red, and Purple.
GREEN: Green is a colour used during the liturgical season called the ordinary time; this season focuses not on any particular mystery of our faith but the whole three-year period of the Lord’s public ministry. During this season, the readings recount the Lord’s teaching, healing, and all other deeds recorded in the bible. We recount the life he shared with humanity, the salvation he won, and the hope we have in him. Green is a colour that symbolizes hope, life, and fertility. During the ordinary liturgical season of the Church, we celebrate the hope we have in Christ Jesus, and it is expressed symbolically in our use of green vestments.
WHITE OR GOLD: These are colours that symbolize joy and purity; they are used most especially during the liturgical season of Christmas and Easter, which are special seasons of joy. That does not mean we are not happy outside these seasons; no, we only focus on a particular aspect of our faith: the mystery of the incarnation (Christmas) and the mystery of the resurrection (Easter). These are seasons the Church rejoices especially, and so we use white or gold. They are also worn when we celebrate some special feast of our Lord Jesus and his mother Mary, the angels and saints who were not martyrs. These two colours can also be used for Christian burial; yes, don’t be surprised. The death of a Christian is his or her birth into eternity, into heaven. It is worth celebrating. The colour symbolizes the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and our belief that the dead will rise.
RED: The colour red has a dual symbolism. On the one hand, red symbolizes the shedding of blood, and so it is used on Palm Sunday because that day, Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly to shed his blood for humanity. We use this colour on Good Friday, the day Jesus died on the Cross and shed his blood for our salvation. Also, in the celebration of martyrs who offered their lives for the faith, red vestments are used. It symbolizes blood.
On the other hand, red signifies the fire of God’s love, the Holy Spirit. So, on Pentecost, the day we celebrate the Holy Spirit’s descent on the apostles, the red vestment is used. We also use it when we celebrate the sacrament of confirmation, which is connected to the Holy Spirit.
VIOLET OR PURPLE: This colour is generally believed to be the colour of royalty. However, this royalty is not really emphasized, rather the Church focuses more on the pains, suffering, and agony of Jesus Christ. Purple is used therefore during Advent and Lent because it signifies sacrifice and preparation. It reminds us of the call to repentance, and so it is also used during Christian burial to remind the living of the need for repentance.
Therefore, the liturgical colours carry some emotions with them; they help express what we feel inside us; joy, sorrow, and hope. As you see these colours on the altar in your parishes, know what they mean and what they express.