GIRM 345-347: Colors of Vestments

Color my liturgical world:

345. Diversity of color in the sacred vestments has as its purpose to give more effective expression even outwardly whether to the specific character of the mysteries of faith to be celebrated or to a sense of Christian life’s passage through the course of the liturgical year.

You might be surprised on two facts here.

First, the Church permits colors other than the Big Four. The Roman approach would probably embrace something thoughtfully chosen, but not out-of-character for the season. “White” feasts have greatest leeway.

These colors are assigned to vestments. Not other decorations in the church building. Obviously, the overall use of color should be harmonious. But there’s nothing in the GIRM to suggest that, say, blue, silver and black wouldn’t complement Advent purple or red and brown don’t make good supportive colors for the Lent shade.

If you don’t have an ordo handy to tell your clergy how to vest, GIRM 346 tells it:

346. As regards the color of sacred vestments, traditional usage should be observed, namely:

a) The color white is used in the Offices and Masses during Easter Time and Christmas Time; on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity; and furthermore on celebrations of the Lord other than of his Passion, celebrations of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of the Holy Angels, and of Saints who were not Martyrs; on the Solemnities of All Saints (November 1) and of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June24 ); and on the Feasts of St. John the Evangelist (December 27), of the Chair of St. Peter (February 22), and of the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25).

b) The color red is used on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion and on Friday of Holy Week (Good Friday), on Pentecost Sunday, on celebrations of the Lord’s Passion, on the “birthday” feast days of Apostles and Evangelists, and on celebrations of Martyr Saints.

c) The color green is used in the Offices and Masses of Ordinary Time.

d) The color violet or purple is used in Advent and Lent. It may also be worn in Offices and Masses for the Dead.

You knew that white, black, or violet are all okayed for funerals, right:

e) Besides the color violet, the colors white or black may be used at funeral services and at other Offices and Masses for the Dead in the Dioceses of the United States of America.

f) The color rose may be used, where it is the practice, on Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and on Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent).

g) On more solemn days, festive, that is, more precious, sacred vestments may be used even if not of the color of the day.

And what would such solemn or festive days be? Parish and diocesan feasts. Special votive Masses. White feasts, certainly.

Metallic hues are fine for the US:

h) The colors gold or silver may be worn on more solemn occasions in the Dioceses of the United States of America.

What about your country?

347. Ritual Masses are celebrated in their proper color, in white, or in a festive color; Masses for Various Needs, on the other hand, are celebrated in the color proper to the day or the time of year or in violet if they have a penitential character, for example, nos. 31, 33, or 38; Votive Masses are celebrated in the color suited to the Mass itself or even in the color proper to the day or the time of the year.

Thoughts, observations, and especially opinions about any or all of this?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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6 Responses to GIRM 345-347: Colors of Vestments

  1. Liam says:

    Cloth of silver is quite special, unlike cloth of gold, which can supplant a variety of colors, cloth of silver can only replace white vestments. Cloth of silver can have a somewhat opalescent effect.

    When I was growing up, the violet of Advent was a more royal purple (closer to the purple of Tyre), while the violet of Lent was more blue and subdued (perhaps echoing the historical development that violet was originally a variant on black in vestments). Funny how the revival of Sarum blue reversed that connotation so suddenly in the past 30 years….

    The eastern churches just have “bright” and “dark” categories of colors. Though green is traditionally associated with the Holy Spirit in that tradition (and many of the biggest feasts are considered essentially Trinitarian and the work of the Spirit is emphasized therein).

    • Liam says:

      And, I would venture now, that because of the modulation in the tone of Advent (a season both of penance and joyful if subdued expectation), that it can be argued that purple now takes on an additional eschatological orientation as well that helps solidify its place within the funerary colors.

  2. Jimmy Mac says:

    Just follow the guidance from this rank of the clergy and you’ll never choose the wrong vestments:

    http://www.richardsipe.com/Burke_Gallery/The%20Cost%20of%20Looking%20Good%202007%5B2%5D.pdf

    He knew what to wear and look where he is now!

  3. FrMichael says:

    Violet is the default color for funerals and Masses for the Dead? How did I miss that? In these parts I have never seen any color but white used.

    • Todd says:

      My own preference would be a white vestment liberally trimmed with violet and black. Using a parish’s Lent or Advent vestments for a funeral seems off to me.

      • Liam says:

        I’ve seen violet trimmed in white, too, and they work well for funerals.

        One thing I find interesting is that, while Sarum Blue became a fad for a while in Catholic circles, Lenten White (natural rather than bleached white linen) did not.

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