The meaning of black vestmentsBlack is, of course, a symbol of death (that is, in Western Civilization). Certainly, other colors have also been used to represent death – even green! Still, for the most part, black is the traditional symbol of death in Western culture, and this still holds today. In the Western world, everybody wears black to a funeral … except the priest, and he often wears white!Black does not signify despair, not at all. Rather, black is the symbol of mourning, of loss, of death – but this mourning will be turned to joy, the loss is great gain, and death is birth unto true life. The color black is in no way contrary to Christian hope.Black as a liturgical colorIt is worth noting that – although, in the early days of the Church, white seems to have been the color of vestments on every day of the year – black was almost certainly introduced into the liturgy before violet (purple). In fact, it seems that black came to be used as one of the (originally) four principal colors of the Mass: White, green, red, and black.Considering the antiquity of the color, it is somewhat surprising that black is used far less often today than is violet – while many Catholics have seen violet used (in Advent and Lent), nearly an whole generation has never seen a black vestment (at least in the USA).
Traditionally, black is used at all Masses of the dead and funeral Masses, on All Soul’s Day, and on Good Friday. In the Novus Ordo, black is not to be used on Good Friday, but may still be used at the other Masses (though violet and even white are also permitted, and in practice preferred). There is no reason why a priest could not, in the Novus Ordo begin to use black vestments at least for All Soul’s day – and even for funerals and Requiem Masses.
Black is beautiful
November 2, 2012 by joyfulpapist