Liturgical Colors and What They Mean

The colors of the liturgical season are an important part of the décor that changes throughout the seasons. Throughout the church calendar, specific colors are used to symbolize specific meanings: The use of these colors is not haphazard - rather, its use is meaningful and is used to honor special occasions or sacraments.

The liturgical colors affect draperies and vestments. These colors include the antependium of the altar, the burse and the chalice veil, the maniple, stole, chasuble, cope, tunic and more. The liturgical year begins with Advent, the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The current colors are white, red, green, violet, black, rose and gold.

 

White

White is a symbol of joy, light, glory, triumph and purity. It is used in the Christmas and Easter seasons. It is also used at weddings, in baptisms, funerals, All Saints, Feasts of the Apostles, and the Feasts of the Lord.

  • Season of Christmas
  • Season of Easter
  • Feasts of the Lord, other than of His passion
  • Feasts of Mary, the angels, and saints who were not martyrs
  • All Saints (1 November)
  • Feasts of the Apostles
  • Nuptial Masses
  • Masses for the dead (Requiem Masses) when the deceased is a baptized child who died before the age of reason

Note: White is the color of Popes' non-liturgical dress. White can be replaced by Silver.

 

Red

Red is connoted with blood, passion and fire. It is used during Palm Sunday, Good Friday, the birthday feast days of apostles and evangelists, the celebration of saints and in celebration of the Lord's passion. It is also used on Pentecost Sunday as a symbol of the Holy Spirit and the burning fire of God's love.

  • Feasts of the Lord's passion, Blood, and Cross
  • Feasts of the martyrs
  • Palm Sunday
  • Pentecost

Note: Red is the color of Cardinals' non-liturgical dress

 

Green

Green signifies hope, life and anticipation, and is used in "ordinary" time, which is the season that is focused on Jesus' three-year public ministry, His teachings and His miracles. It is used after Epiphany and after Pentecost.

  • Time After Epiphany
  • Time After Pentecost
 

Violet/Purple

Violet (purple) is used to symbolize sacrifice, penance, melancholy and preparation. It is used during Advent, Lent and may be used during funerals. Additionally, it is used in the Season of Septuagesima, Rogation Days, Ember Days, Good Friday and in Vigils (except for Ascension and Pentecost).

  • Season of Advent
  • Season of Septuagesima
  • Season of Lent
  • Rogation Days
  • Ember Days (except for Pentecost Ember Days)
  • Vigils except for Ascension and Pentecost
  • Good Friday

Note: Violet, literally "amaranth red," is the color of Bishops', Archbishops', and Patriarchs' non-liturgical dress

 

Black

Black is a symbol of death and mourning in the church. It is not commonly used in the United States, but in other countries has been used at funerals or the feast of All Souls. The use of the color white has replaced black.

  • All Souls Day
  • Masses for the dead (Requiem Masses), except for baptized children who've died before the age of reason
 

Rose

Rose symbolizes rejoicing and anticipation. It is used on the third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete) and the fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare). Rose is used during these mid-point Sundays to remind us of upcoming joyful events: the birth of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross.

  • Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent)
  • Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent)
 

Gold

Gold is a color of joy, and can replace red, white or green (not violet or black).

  • Gold can replace white, red, or green (but not violet or black)