Friday, July 23, 2010

Catholic Vestment Colors: Symbols of Our Beliefs

Color matters. There's a reason why you're not likely to find a lot of bright red and yellow in an investment company's advertisement - or deep greens and rich browns on the sign of a fast-food joint.

Or people wearing white armbands at a funeral. Actually, in some parts of the world: you might. What colors mean is at least partly a matter of culture.1

Here in the West, the Catholic Church's color for (most) funerals was black. Now, it's black or white. I mentioned that yesterday.

Catholic Vestment Colors Mean Something

There's a reason for the priest celebrating Mass in a different color on different days - and it's not because he got bored with green. All those colors mean something: white; red; green, violet, black, and (around here) rose.

I didn't mention blue. That's because this blog is about a Catholic's experiences and outlook in America. Blue is an important color for vestments in some places: but not in this part of the world.2 Not yet, anyway.

The symbolism of vestment colors in America is also what I could check on personally, without making a long-distance call. I'll get back to that.

The Catholic Church has a rich heritage of symbols - which I think could be discussed more often. But that's another topic. Here in the West, about a century back, these were what vestment colors meant:
  • White
    • Light
      • Innocence
      • Purity
      • Joy
      • Glory
  • Red
    • Fire and blood
      • Burning charity
      • Martyrs' generous sacrifice
  • Green
    • Plants and trees
      • Hope of life eternal
  • Violet
      Gloomy cast of the mortified
      • Affliction and melancholy
  • Black
    • Mourning
      • Sorrow of death
      • Sombreness of the tomb
    (Source: "Liturgical Colours," The Catholic Encyclopedia (1908), via New Advent)
About 50 years after that, this was the symbolism attached to the colors of vestments:
  • White
    • Purity of soul
    • Holiness
  • Red
    • The shedding of blood
    • Burning love
  • Green
    • Hope
  • Violet
    • Penance
    Black
    • Mourning
  • Rose
    • Joy in the midst of penance
  • Gold
    • Used on solemn occasions in place of white, red, or green vestments
    (Source: "Baltimore Catechism," Lesson 27, via EWTN.com)
Less than an hour ago, I called a deacon whose knowledge of the Church I've learned to trust: and he tells me that the colors mean the same thing now.

American English has shifted a little during the last century, but that seems to be the most significant change in discussion of vestment colors mean.

Related post:
1 Posts about color, in another blog:2 Catholics live and worship in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, South America, the Philippines, and many other places: but the American experience is what I know about first-hand.

2 comments:

Aubrey said...

Black in the Bible means "death and unholiness"

Brian Gill said...

Aubrey,

Okay. That's - interesting.

Black meaning "death and unholiness" doesn't seem a good fit with The Song of Songs 5:11, although maybe it's close to some implications of Zechariah 6:2.

I take the Bible seriously. Over the years, though, I've learned to be careful about 'Biblical' assertions:

"The Pope's 'Fundamental Priority,' and the 'Dark Side' of Bible Study"
(November 19, 2010)

"Studying the Bible: Carefully"
(November 16, 2010)

Not that curious claims are limited to folks starting from something near the Bible:

"What the Judeo-Christian Civilization, a Luxury Resort Named Atlantis, and an Albanian Grand Vizier have in Common - Sort of"
(July 12, 2011)

Like it? Pin it, Plus it, - - -

Pinterest: My Stuff, and More

Advertisement

Unique, innovative candles


Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store

Popular Posts

Label Cloud

1277 abortion ADD ADHD-Inattentive Adoration Chapel Advent Afghanistan Africa America Amoris Laetitia angels animals annulment Annunciation anti-catholicism Antichrist apocalyptic ideas apparitions archaeology architecture Arianism art Asperger syndrome assumptions asteroid astronomy Australia authority balance and moderation baptism being Catholic beliefs bias Bible Bible and Catechism bioethics biology blogs brain Brazil business Canada capital punishment Caritas in Veritate Catechism Catholic Church Catholic counter-culture Catholicism change happens charisms charity Chile China Christianity Christmas citizenship climate change climatology cloning comets common good common sense Communion community compassion confirmation conscience conversion Corpus Christi cosmology creation credibility crime crucifix Crucifixion Cuba culture dance dark night of the soul death depression designer babies despair detachment devotion discipline disease diversity divination Divine Mercy divorce Docetism domestic church dualism duty Easter economics education elections emotions England entertainment environmental issues Epiphany Establishment Clause ethics ethnicity Eucharist eugenics Europe evangelizing evolution exobiology exoplanets exorcism extremophiles faith faith and works family Father's Day Faust Faustus fear of the Lord fiction Final Judgment First Amendment forgiveness Fortnight For Freedom free will freedom fun genetics genocide geoengineering geology getting a grip global Gnosticism God God's will good judgment government gratitude great commission guest post guilt Haiti Halloween happiness hate health Heaven Hell HHS hierarchy history holidays Holy Family Holy See Holy Spirit holy water home schooling hope humility humor hypocrisy idolatry image of God images Immaculate Conception immigrants in the news Incarnation Independence Day India information technology Internet Iraq Ireland Israel Italy Japan Jesus John Paul II joy just war justice Kansas Kenya Knights of Columbus knowledge Korea language Last Judgment last things law learning Lent Lenten Chaplet life issues love magi magic Magisterium Manichaeism marriage martyrs Mary Mass materialism media medicine meditation Memorial Day mercy meteor meteorology Mexico Minnesota miracles Missouri moderation modesty Monophysitism Mother Teresa of Calcutta Mother's Day movies music Muslims myth natural law neighbor Nestorianism New Year's Eve New Zealand news Nietzsche obedience Oceania organization original sin paleontology parish Parousia penance penitence Pentecost Philippines physical disability physics pilgrimage politics Pope Pope in Germany 2011 population growth positive law poverty prayer predestination presumption pride priests prophets prostitution Providence Purgatory purpose quantum entanglement quotes reason redemption reflections relics religion religious freedom repentance Resurrection robots Roman Missal Third Edition rosaries rules sacramentals Sacraments Saints salvation schools science secondary causes SETI sex shrines sin slavery social justice solar planets soul South Sudan space aliens space exploration Spain spirituality stem cell research stereotypes stewardship stories storm Sudan suicide Sunday obligation superstition symbols technology temptation terraforming the establishment the human condition tolerance Tradition traffic Transfiguration Transubstantiation travel Trinity trust truth uncertainty United Kingdom universal destination of goods vacation Vatican Vatican II veneration vengeance Veterans Day videos virtue vlog vocations voting war warp drive theory wealth weather wisdom within reason work worship writing

Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.