Saturday, 16 January 2016

Liturgical Colours - an Explanation

Liturgical Colours by Arthur Crumly

The wearing of differing colours for vestments according to the season or feast, familiar to us today, is of late origin and does not appear to have begun until the ninth century at the earliest.

At first, vestments were of one colour, white. Black was sometimes worn as a sign of mourning. A tenth or eleventh century writer speaks only of white vestments, except he refers to scarlet stripes (clavi) on the diaconal dalmatic, and says that black vestments were used during the procession on the feast of the Purification.

By the twelfth century, Rome had a canon regulating the use of colours for vestments. Pope Innocent III, who reigned from 1198 to 1216, is the first to mention four colours : white which the Roman Church used on feasts of confessors, virgins and on other joyful days; red used for martyrs, of the Holy Cross, and at Pentecost. Some, it seems also wore red for the feast of All Saints, but there is nothing strange in this as the feast was in origin the anniversary of the dedication, in AD 609, of the church of Our Lady, Queen of All Martyrs (the Pantheon in Rome). However, the Roman Curia wore white on this day. Black was used in penitential seasons and for Masses for the Dead ; green was used on common days because it was "midway between black and white". Pope Innocent regards violet as a variant of black and says the former was used on the feast of the Holy Innocents and Laetare Sunday. Scarlet and saffron yellow (coccineus et croceus) were considered as versions of red and green. Rose coloured vestments, he tells us, were sometimes worn for feasts of martyrs and yellow for confessors.

Until the introduction of chemical dyes in the nineteenth century, it was very difficult to produce a real black. Black was in reality a very dark shade of blue or green or brown. At the Catholic Church in Croydon there is (or was some years ago) a set of "black" velvet vestments which date from the earlier years of the nineteenth century when vegetable dyes were still in use. When the priest stands at the altar wearing them the vestments look black, but laid out on the vestment press in the sacristy with the light shining on them from a different angle it is clear they are a very dark navy blue. When I was a boy, many of the old servers' cassocks (the cassocks were old, not the servers) in my parish church had faded very badly and patches of them were seen to be brown or green; they had been dyed with vegetable extracts.

The medieval Rites employed a greater number of colours and, because it was a matter of custom not rubric, there was considerable variation as to what colours were used for different feasts and seasons. Parish churches might have followed something of the colour scheme of the cathedral or some other great church, but much would depend in smaller churches on the number of sets (ore suits, as they are usually called in medieval records) of vestments which the local church owned.

The sacramentary of one great church in the Middle Ages listed as the vestments for use on ferias as "any old vestments the sacristan sets out" while elsewhere "the best vestments" irrespective of colour were specified for great feasts. The Bishop of Salisbury had vestments stitched with plates of gold, which tinkled as he moved. They must have very heavy to wear.

Amongst colours used then, but not in current use, were blue, yellow and unbleached linen. The last was the colour for Lent, sometimes "ash", a greyish colour was used for "Lenten array". In the Lyons Rite in France this was still the Lenten colour until the liturgical upheaval of the last three decades of the twentieth century, and, indeed may, for all I know, still be so in their New Order of Masses.

Blue and yellow were differently used in various places in, for example, the Sarum Use; blue was the colour for Virgins and Widows in some colour schemes with yellow for Confessors, in other places use of the two colours was reversed. Yellow continued until modern times as the colour for Confessors in the Carmelite Rite. That Rite also made use of blue as the colour for feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These two colours are not used in the Roman Rite; although, exceptionally, blue was worn for feasts of Our Lady in the Roman Rite in Spain and, because it was converted from that country, in Spanish America.

In Florence in the Middle Ages, red and white striped vestments are known to have been worn on the feast of Corpus Christi : the colours of bread and wine.

In the Gallican Rites of France, red was the usual colour for the Blessed Sacrament. During the French Revolution, bishops and priests escaping from the Terror came to England. Some re-introduced the practice of burning a lamp before the Blessed Sacrament in the then newly established Catholic chapels, hence in many churches today the red sanctuary lamp is in the Eucharistic liturgical colour of the Gallican Rites, not that of the Roman Rite.

It was not until the Missal of Pope St.Pius V, that there were rubrics requiring the uniform scheme of five colours for the Roman Rite:-

White (albus) which is worn for the seasons of Christmas and Easter, on feasts of Our Lord and of Our Lady, on feasts of angels, the feast of All Saints and the feasts of saints who are not martyrs.

Red, which represents fire and blood, is worn on the feasts of the Precious Blood, the Holy Ghost, the Holy Cross, apostles and martyrs.

Green vestments, the colour of hope, are used for the Sundays and Ferias after Epiphany and those after Pentecost.

Violet is the colour of penitence, is worn in Advent and Lent, and on Rogation and Ember Days (except those of Pentecost when red is worn), the season of Septuagesima and Vigils (except those of the Ascension and Pentecost).

Black , the colour of mourning, is used for Good Friday and for Requiems. Exceptionally, when Masses of the day are being celebrated (away from the High Altar) when the Blessed Sacrament is being exposed for the Forty Hours Devotion, on the Commemoration of All Souls (November 2nd), violet vestments are worn instead of black.

Rose colour (color rosaceus) vestments are prescribed by the Caerimoniale Episcoporum for use in cathedral churches and may be worn elsewhere instead of violet on the third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete) and mid-Lent Sunday (Laetare); on those two Sundays the Pope blessed golden roses for presentation to Catholic queens.

White may be replaced by real cloth of silver and white, red and green, but not violet or black, by real cloth of gold.

The Missal of 1962 (the reforms actually date from 1961) modifies the use of some of the colours prescribed by the Missal of Pope St.Pius V. The Pian Missal specifies violet vestments for the feast of the Holy Innocents (28th December), except when it falls on a Sunday when red replaces violet. The reform changed this to red on the feast on whatever day it fell, even though Pope Innocent III had recorded violet as being their colour even in his day. Red has been worn on the Octave day of the Holy Innocents, but the Octave was abolished in 1961.

Another variation which was "tidied up" was the replacement of violet vestments for the procession of candles on the feast of the Purification (2nd February) with white ones to match those of the Mass which follows. The procession seems, in fact, to be older than the Mass and, until 1961, followed the normal rule of violet vestments for processions of supplication.

The Holy Week reforms of 1956 which (with slight modifications) were incorporated into the 1962 Missal, also changed some of the traditional liturgical colours eg: the colour for the Palm Sunday procession was changed from violet to red and black for the Communion Rite on Good Friday was changed to violet.

As Abbot Cabrol wrote, "colours…have their own symbolism and speak to the eye: black tells of grief and mourning; violet is a sign of penance, red reminds us of the blood of the martyrs; white denotes purity, and green exuberant life. How much more expressive and lively the liturgy becomes when we try to discover the meanings of its formulas and rites."

Arthur Crumly was the Principal Master of Ceremonies to the Latin Mass Society for 25 years, an Altar Server for over 60 years, and Master of Ceremonies for over 50; he sadly passed from this earthly realm in May 2011.

(N.b. this article was also published on the Latin Mass Society's May 2001 Newsletter.)

Friday, 15 January 2016

Cheltenham Young Catholic Adults - Next Social; and a Nazareth House Open Day

The next Cheltenham Young Catholic Adults social will take place at 7pm on Saturday 23rd January at “The Stable,”

Their website states:- “it has the tasty offering of over 80 varieties of cider and sourdough base pizza with homemade tomato sauce and delicious locally sourced toppings. Try The Blazing Saddle; slow roasted pulled beef, smoked bacon, caramelised onion, grilled red pepper and mozzarella topped with sour cream and jalapeño chillies.”

Also please note that young adults are welcome to the Open Day at Nazareth House, Charlton Kings, the advert for this event says:-

Next Sunday, 24 th January at 11.00–1.00pm and 2.00-5.00pm:- come along to meet and chat with the Sisters, staff  and friends over a cup of tea. You can experience and learn about the history of Nazareth House as a Care Home for older people, enjoy hearing the life story and vocation journeys of the Sisters, and, perhaps, reflect on how you can become involved in such a venture.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Cheltenham Young Catholic Adults - Events Dec 2015 and Jan 2016

Weekend 5th - 6th Dec 2015

The Chelt YCA Christmas Party is coming up on Sat 5th Dec at 6:45pm in the Cote Brasserie in Montpellier


Christmas Day 25th Dec 2015

YCA will be providing the serving for the Christmas Day Mass (EF) at Stow on the Wold, Our Lady and St Kenelm's, Back Walls, Stow-on-the-Wold, Cheltenham, GL54 1DR at 11:30am. 

Epiphany 6th Jan 2016

YCA will be providing the serving for the Epiphany Day Mass (EF) at 7pm at St. Gregory's Church. St Gregory's, 10 St James Square, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 3PR.  

Followed by Rosary and Wine at 8:15pm in the Old Priory at St. Gregory's.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

YCA 2015 - Photographs of the Weekend

Young Catholic Adults Weekend in Collaboration with the Scola Gregoriana of Cambridge

Dominican Requiem Mass - Saturday 31st October in the Relic Chapel
Dominican Requiem Mass - Saturday 31st October in the Relic Chapel

Author Donel Foley's talk on the Rosary and the Scapular

Mass of All Saints - Nov 1st St. Joseph's Chapel

Dominican Rite Vespers

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

World Apostolate (Blue Army) of Fatima in England and Wales Needs Your Help

The World Apostolate of Fatima in England and Wales needs help with its website and also with social media including a blog, they would appreciate assistance from someone with web/ skills and social media experience. 

Also, the WAF of England and Wales needs more help generally! So if you would like to help out, please contact the Secretary Donel Foley at

What is WAF?

The World Apostolate of Fatima (formerly called the Blue Army of Fatima), is according to the UK website,” an association present in many countries throughout the world which is open to all the baptized, and directed primarily to the laity.

It seeks to make known and lived the very important message of peace and salvation for all mankind given by Our Lady of Fatima, though the young seers of Fatima, Lucia dos Santos, and Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and to explain why this message is so important.

On 7 October 2005 its international statutes were approved ad experimentum by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and on 7 October 2010 it was permanently erected as an international Public Association of the Faithful by Cardinal Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. This confirmed that the World Apostolate of Fatima is in full communion with the Holy See and that its purpose is, according to its statutes: 1) promoting the authentic teaching of the Church in adherence to the tenets of the Gospel; 2) the personal sanctification of its members through faithful adherence to the message of Fatima; 3) promoting the common good by spreading the message of Fatima; 4) promoting the Pledge given by each member of the WAF. The World Apostolate of Fatima has millions of members in 57 countries.”

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Timetable for Young Catholic Adult Weekend 31st Oct -1st Nov - Updated

Patron of the Weekend:- St. Simon Stock

Theme: “One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, Our Lady will save the world.”Attributed to Saint Dominic.

9:30am-10:30am  Chant workshop – Relic Chapel
11am: Sung Mass Requiem ( Dominican Rite) – Relic Chapel
followed by enrolment in the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
12pm: Marian Procession in honour of Our Lady of Fatima  (Rosary Way)
1-1.30pm: Lunch
2-3pm: 1st Talk Author Donel Foley. The” Power of the
Rosary and Brown Scapular” – in the Malachi Lynch Conference Centre

3-4pm: Chant workshop – Relic Chapel
4-5pm: Chant rehearsal for Schola Gregoriana - Relic Chapel

4-5.45pm pm: Free time (for those not going to Chant rehearsal)
6-6.30pm: Vespers

7pm Supper
7.30-8:30pm: Rosary then Adoration or Holy Hour;  and Confessions with Fr. Pearson – St Joseph’s Chapel
(More Confessions available with the Carmelite Fathers at 8:15pm)
8.30pm: Social

9am- Breakfast
9:30am-   Schola Gregoriana rehearsal
10 am  Sung Mass. Feast of All Saints ( Dominican Rite) – St. Joseph’s Chapel

11am-11:45pm: 2ndTalk -  Fr Pearson, "Our Lady and the Liturgy." – in the Malachi Lynch Conference Centre  (with drinks and cakes)
12:45-1pm Rosary – Cloister Chapel
1-1:30pm Lunch
2pm-3:55pm  Packing  and goodbyes – (please make sure that you hand in your key by 4pm)
4pm Finish.

*All meals are to be taken in the St. Simon Stock Room

*Please give the bedroom keys back to Reception immediately after lunch– as they are costly to replace if they are lost or taken!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Just A Few Places Left For The Young Catholic Adults Weekend at Aylesford 31st Oct -1st Nov. Booking Still Open.

2015 is the 750th anniversary of the death of St Simon Stock, why not come and learn more about this world famous saint - his relics are currently located in the Relic Chapel at Aylesford. 
Young Catholic Adults  (YCA) will be using the Relic Chapel, as well as St. Joseph’s Chapel – during its 31st Oct- 1st Nov weekend. To book please goto:- . Prices range from £5-£95.
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