The Low Churchman’s Guide to Solemn High Mass. Part II: Liturgical Colours

The so-called “liturgical colours” are a source of great confusion to those outside the inner circle of Ritualism. Depending on the day in the liturgical year that is being celebrated, the vestments, altar frontals, and associated paraphernalia might be in any one of several colours, according to the following scheme:

green is used on ordinary days with no special significance;

purple is used in the penitential seasons of Advent, Lent, and Martinmas, although it is supplanted by vestments of a light sulphur-pink on the third Sunday of Advent, the fourth and seventh Sundays of Lent, and whenever Martinmas falls on an odd-numbered Wednesday;

white is used in feasts of Several Confessors Out of Eastertide (of semidouble rank or higher), and when celebrating the liturgy of any saint the records of whose beatification cannot be fully reconstructed;

maroon is used on the feast of Pentecost, at Vigils of Several Confessors in Rogationtide, and at exorcisms;

red is used for feasts of Martyrs, for I Vespers of a Doctor Not a Bishop, and for weddings within the Octave of Michaelmas;

black is used for ordinary Requiem Masses;

burnt umber is used at Requiem Masses said for the soul of a parishioner whose tithing record has been especially unsatisfactory.

Since green and maroon vestments are the most frequently used across the liturgical year, Ritualists will eagerly seek opportunities to see the more exotic colours in use; an experienced Ritualist will begin each day by scouring the obituary pages in the hope of attending the funeral of a recently-deceased miser.

Some colours are associated with particular rituals outside of the liturgy proper, as in the infamous Rite of the Black Maniple. This rite is performed when it is felt that the playing of the parish organist has been particularly unsatisfactory. Before dismissing the congregation, the priest processes to the organ console, attended by two taperers and a justice-of-the peace. The priest hands a black maniple to the organist, who is thereby given notice that his employment at the parish is terminated, and that if he enters the church building again he will be arrested.

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