Since Pentecost, we have celebrated many feasts on Sundays. This means that the liturgical colours that we have seen have reflected the feast. The Church links colours with period of the Church’s year, or particular feasts. As we are firmly back in normal time, we will see green again for a while. The colours, and thus the vestments, that the Priest wears is not a personal choice. Of course he may choose this or that chasuble, but he cannot decide to wear red on a green day, or black in place of white. So what are the colours, and what do they mean?
Green: this colour is the default. It is the colour used for what is often called ‘Ordinary Time’. Actually the official name is ‘per annum’ or ‘through the year’. It is the colour of nature, when nothing is out of the ordinary. So if no particular feast is celebrated, or we do not find ourselves in a specific liturgical season, then the colour used is green.
White: this colour covers both silver and gold. White is used during the Christmas and Easter seasons. They are times of rejoicing, and white reflects that. It is also used for the celebration of the feasts of the Lord (such as Christ the King, or the Sacred Heart), feasts of Our Lady, feasts of the Angels, and feasts of the saints.
Red: feasts of the Holy Spirit, such as Pentecost, are celebrated in Red. This reflects the tongues of flame which descended on the Apostles at Pentecost. It is also used for saints who shed their blood for Christ. These are the Martyrs and red is used to remind us of their blood which was spilled in defence of the faith. If a saint is a martyr, then red is used as opposed to white.
Purple: this is used for the two great seasons of Advent (before Christmas) and Lent (before Easter). It reflects the penitential nature of the two seasons. Originally Advent was a lesser fasting period than Lent. Although Advent is different now, with few people fasting, the colour remains the same.
Rose: is used on two Sundays, the third Sunday of Advent and the fourth Sunday of Lent. These were days when the fasting of the two seasons was lessened, and to reflect this, a different colour was used.
Black: this colour is used for funerals, and Masses of the dead, such as All Souls day. In the new rite of Mass, the priest can also use purple or white for funerals.
Our worship of God comes through signs and symbols. It is through sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing. The colours at Mass help us to focus on the season, or the feast which is being celebrated.