Symbolism of Vestment Colors in the Roman Catholic Church (Guest post)

I would like to thank Marilyn Nash and Holyart for their support and writing this post for the blog.

Symbolism of Vestment Colors in the Roman Catholic Church

The Liturgical Year

Within the Catholic Church, the liturgical year is made up of seasons, each representing a different time in the life of Jesus. Priests wear specific colors to correspond with each season. The colors of these vestments are symbolic to the season they represent. Within each season, a feast day, or solemnity, may be celebrated and in this case, the color of the priest’s vestment may be other than that of the season.

Liturgical Seasons and the Colors Representing them:

Advent: Advent is the time when we prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. During Advent, the outer most vestments, known as chasubles, are purple. Purple is a royal color and is worn to symbolize the dominion of Our Lord. In some churches, deep blue is favored because it is the color of the night sky and symbolizes Jesus who is sometimes called “Dayspring” or source of day. Another reason for choosing deep blue is to distinguish it from the season of Lent when purple is also worn. On the third Sunday in Advent, priests wear a pink or rose vestment. This Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday and is a day of particular joy as while we await the birth of Our Lord, we celebrate His presence in our lives.

Christmas: This is the season when we celebrate the Nativity; Jesus’ embodiment into the physical world. During the Christmas season, white and/or gold are the colors worn. White is symbolic of purity and new life while gold represents the light of day. The Christmas Season continues until Epiphany.

Ordinary Time: The season following Epiphany is Ordinary Time. It is a season when we neither feast nor fast. This season focuses upon the faith that Jesus lives among us and the expectation of the His Second Coming. Because it is symbolic of life and growth, green is the color worn during Ordinary Time.

Lent: Lent is a six week (40 day) period of atonement in preparation for Easter. It parallels the forty-day temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Lent is a time for fasting, prayer, works of mercy and self-examination. Violet is associated with repentance from sin and is the Lenten color.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and follows Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. Red is symbolic of blood, suffering, and martyrs and is the color worn through Holy Week which ends on Holy Thursday when the Sacred Paschal Triduum begins.

The Sacred Paschal Triduum is made up of the "Three Holiest Days" of the Church's year when the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus is recalled. On Holy Thursday, the church rejoices in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. White or gold is symbolic of rejoicing and are worn on this night.
When the Holy Thursday celebration has ended, the church is stripped of all adornments, altar clothes are removed and the Tabernacle is empty. We come to Good Friday when the color worn may be red or black.

On Holy Saturday, Easter Vigil is celebrated. New members enter into the Church through Baptism and together, the congregation renews its Baptismal vows. On this joyous night, white or gold is worn.

Easter: The color worn through the Easter Season is white or gold to represent its joyful observance. This season closes with Pentecost when Jesus sends forth the Holy Spirit. Red is worn for Pentecost to symbolize the fire of the Holy Spirit.

The first Sunday after Pentecost celebrates the Trinity, when the color, once again, is White or Gold.

Ordinary Time: This is the longest season of the Liturgical Year. It is a continuation of the time that began on the Sunday after Epiphany. Its color is green, symbolizing growth.

Other Observances: 
White or gold; All Saints Day, Holy Name of Jesus, Baptism, the Presentation, the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Ascension, and the Transfiguration
Red is the color used for feast days of martyrs.
Blue is worn for Marian feast days.
White, and occasionally black are the colors worn for funerals.

Deacons, like priests, wear an alb. Albs are white because they symbolize the purity of the soul. Deacons wear a stole which is placed over their left shoulder and falls across their right side. The color of a deacon’s stole corresponds to the color of the Priest’s vestment.

Marilyn Nash