Liturgical color for Good Friday

Hello all,

Catholic convert Kim here. I was curious about the color for Good Friday. The Catholic Encyclopeia on New Advent lists the liturgical color for GF as black, but the GIRM lists it is red. I am curious about the history of this and when/why it changed from black to red. ?? Thanks for educating me! Kim:)

It may be that black is the normal liturgical colour for Good Friday in the Old Rite (the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite), as the Catholic Encyclopedia was put together before the liturgical reforms.

When the revised missal and kalendar of Pope Paul VI were issued in 1969, the color of Good Friday was changed from black (and violet for communion) to red, to ephasize Our Lord’s passion.

Thank you for your responses. May I ask, what then is the liturgical color for Holy Thursday? Is it still violet? Kim

The color for both Holy Thursday and Easter Vigil is white. The “Gloria”, which has been gone for all of Lent, is also said for Holy Thursday, and bells are typically rung for that.

Red is the color for all observances specific to the Cross, martrydom and the Holy Spirit.

Interestingly, although the liturgical color changes, the Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil liturgies are done something as a single liturgy. There is no dismissal on Holy Thursday or Good Friday, and no “gathering rite” on Good Friday or Easter Vigil.

FYI, the Catholic Encyclopedia was published in 1914. It’s a wonderful resource, as our faith is rather unchanging, but certain things do change. Thus, in this particular instance, we defer to the more recent GIRM. :slight_smile:

Wow! Thank all of you for your posts in this forum. I had thought my understanding of “What color” and “When” was clearly understood. Guess I have more learning before I have it down pat. Thanks

The color for Holy Thursday is white?

There were several reasons adduced the main ones being:

  • “Regem Martyrum Dominum” (The Lord is the King of Martyrs), red being the colour for the blood shed by martyrs. A further reason is adduced by pointing to the Feasts of the Passion, all celebrated in red.

  • the Holy Spirit working through the sacrifice of the martyrs (in charity, etc.) has long been a reason adduced for the colour red on their feasts. This was also applied to the sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday on account of Hebrews (“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who by the Holy Spirit offered himself unspotted unto God, cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God”)

  • a historical reason. Red being predominant in many parts of Europe before the the liturgy was codified under St. Pius V. It was also maintained in certain local usages and rites (like the Ambrosian liturgy of Milan in Italy)

  • the idea of red as royalty and the connection with the Triumph of the Cross. In a sense, the victorious aspect of the Passion being also emphasized with the sorrowful (a la the hymns “Vexilla Regis” or “Pange lingua”)

For the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the color is white.

It is also interesting to note that, during the Good Friday liturgy, the priest wears an alb and chasuble (vestments for Mass) but the liturgy is not a Mass. One would think he would wear a cope but this is not the case for some reason I have never learned.

Our pastor - and a visiting priest several times - wears an alb and red stole, not a chasuble on Good Friday. Among other things, I’m guessing not a lot of parishes have a red cope. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a red cope outside of a cathedral.

For the Mass it is, in honor of the institution of the Holy Eucharist. The color for the Liturgy of the Hours on Maundy Thursday is violet.

Yup. For the complete breakdown of the color schemes for Mass, check out paragraph 346 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:

  1. As to the color of sacred vestments, the traditional usage is to be retained: namely,

a. White is used in the Offices and Masses during the Easter and Christmas seasons; also on celebrations of the Lord other than of his Passion, 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 (June 24); 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. Red is used on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion and on Good Friday, on Pentecost Sunday, on celebrations of the Lord’s Passion, on the feasts of the Apostles and Evangelists, and on celebrations of Martyr Saints.

c. Green is used in the Offices and Masses of Ordinary Time.

d. Violet or purple is used in Advent and Lent. It may also be worn in Offices and Masses for the Dead (cf. below).

e. Besides violet, white or black vestments may be worn at funeral services and at other Offices and Masses for the Dead in the dioceses of the United States of America.

f. 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, sacred vestments may be used that are festive, that is, more precious, even if not of the color of the day.

h. Gold- or silver-colored vestments may be worn on more solemn occasions in the dioceses of the United States of America.

Actually, this doesn’t mention Holy Thursday explicitly, but it falls under the category of “celebrations of the Lord other than of his Passion”.

Considering that it is not part of Lent, I was surprised to discover that the liturgical color for Holy Saturday is violet. Are there any other days when the liturgical color is violet outside of Advent, Lent, and Holy Saturday?

I thought it was established that the liturgical color for Holy Saturday / Vigil was white / gold? Or were you referring to that time pre-Vigil?

I believe the violet applies prior to the vigil on Saturday.

Wow, I totally had that slip past my mind. I guess I wasn’t paying attention to the liturgical colors on Holy Thursday last year.

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