Vestment Colors at a Concelebration

And More on the Blessed Sacrament

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ROME, JULY 3, 2012 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Are priests who concelebrate a Mass obliged to where the same color vestment as the main celebrant? Three examples that I have seen lead me to pose this question. In all cases the concelebrants were wearing stoles without chasubles. The first example occurred at a funeral Mass: The main celebrant wore black vestments, the concelebrants wore white stoles, and the pall was also white. The second example also occurred at a funeral Mass: The main celebrant and two concelebrants wore white vestments; the third concelebrant wore a violet stole. The third example occurred on Gaudete Sunday: The main celebrant wore rose vestments; the concelebrant wore a violet stole. What is preferred? What is permitted? — T.N., Arlington, Virginia

A: This theme is covered in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) and in the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum.

The GIRM states:

«209. In the vesting room or other suitable place, the concelebrants put on the sacred vestments they customarily wear when celebrating Mass individually. Should, however, a good reason arise, (e.g., a large number of concelebrants or a lack of vestments), concelebrants other than the principal celebrant may omit the chasuble and simply wear the stole over the alb.»

This law is further refined in Redemptionis Sacramentum:

«124. A faculty is given in the Roman Missal for the Priest concelebrants at Mass other than the principal concelebrant (who should always put on a chasuble of the prescribed color), for a just reason such as a large number of concelebrants or a lack of vestments, to omit ‘the chasuble, using the stole over the alb.’ Where a need of this kind can be foreseen, however, provision should be made for it insofar as possible. Out of necessity the concelebrants other than the principal celebrant may even put on white chasubles. For the rest, the norms of the liturgical books are to be observed.»

This would indicate that it is preferable for all concelebrating priests to wear a chasuble, even if it is white and not the color of the day.

If sufficient white chasubles are not available, then I would say that the next preference would be for the concelebrants to wear stoles corresponding to the color of the day. If even this is not possible, then white stoles may also be used.

Although the norms mention only the principal celebrant having to wear the color of the day, I believe that a well-ordered combination of legitimate colors by several concelebrants falls within the law.

For example, I participated in a recent ordination in St. Peter’s Basilica in which red was the color of the day. Given that there were more than 120 concelebrants, even the sacristy of the venerable papal basilica found it hard to rise to the occasion. In the end, a mere 80 of us wore red chasubles while the rest wore red stoles.

In order to maintain decorum the fully vested priests were distributed nearest the altar while the others were arranged in another suitable place.

This basic arrangement could also be applied on a smaller scale. For example, if a parish has only four or five matching vestments besides the chasuble of the principal celebrant, these could be used by those priests who will be closest to the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer.

The use of matching vestments for concelebrants, and not just vestments of the same color, is not a strict requirement of law but is clearly preferable for the general order and decorum of the celebration.

If concelebrants are to wear stoles, then I think it best to use a single color. The second example offered by our reader of a funeral where the main celebrant wore white while one concelebrant wore a violet stole would illustrate this case of an unnecessary clash of colors. It would have been more appropriate for all to wear white. The other examples of the use of a single black or rose vestment with the other concelebrants vested in appropriate stoles are in accord with liturgical norms.

Finally, it might be of use to recall the overarching rules for the use of liturgical colors as expressed by the GIRM:

«345. Diversity of color in the sacred vestments has as its purpose to give more effective expression even outwardly whether to the specific character of the mysteries of faith to be celebrated or to a sense of Christian life’s passage through the course of the liturgical year.

«346. As regards the color of sacred vestments, traditional usage should be observed, namely:

«a) The color white is used in the Offices and Masses during Easter Time and Christmas Time; on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity; and furthermore on celebrations of the Lord other than of his Passion, celebrations 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 (June24 ); 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) The color red is used on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion and on Friday of Holy Week (Good Friday), on Pentecost Sunday, on celebrations of the Lord’s Passion, on the ‘birthday’ feast days of Apostles and Evangelists, and on celebrations of Martyr Saints.

«c) The color green is used in the Offices and Masses of Ordinary Time.

«d) The color violet or purple is used in Advent and Lent. It may also be worn in Offices and Masses for the Dead.

«e) Besides the color violet, the colors white or black may be used at funeral services and at other Offices and Masses for the Dead in the Dioceses of the United States of America.

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

«h) The colors gold or silver may be worn on more solemn occasions in the Dioceses of the United States of America.

«347. Ritual Masses are celebrated in their proper color, in white, or in a festive color; Masses for Various Needs, on the other hand, are celebrated in the color proper to the day or the time of year or in violet if they have a penitential character, for example, nos. 31, 33, or 38; Votive Masses are celebrated in the color suited to the Mass itself or even in the color proper to the day or the time of the year.»

Redemptionis Sacramentum, No. 127, offers an official interpretation of GIRM 346g:

«127. A special faculty is given in the liturgical books for using sacred vestments that are festive or more noble on more solemn occasions, even if they are not of the colour of the day. However, this faculty, which is specifically intended in reference to vestments made many years ago, with a view to preserving the Church’s patrimony, is improperly extended to innovations by which forms and colors are adopted according to the inclination of private individuals, with disregard for traditional practice, while the real sense of this norm is lost to the detriment of the tradition. On the occasion of a feastday, sacred vestments of a gold or silver color can be substituted as appropriate for others of various colors, but not for purple or black.»

* * *

Follow-up: Removing the Blessed Sacrament

In the wake of our comments on removing the Blessed Sacrament (see June 19), a reader asked: «When the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for the community, is a layperson worthy to put the Eucharist in the monstrance, and, when over, to take it out and put it in the tabernacle? I see this is being done in many churches. Does the Pope agree with this? What’s canon law on this matter?»

Ordained ministers are
the ordinary ministers of exposition and reservation. An instituted acolyte is an ex-officio extraordinary minister of exposition and reservation when circumstances require it.

Only the ordained ministers may impart Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament.

In special circumstances the bishop may authorize lay ministers to expose and reserve the Blessed Sacrament.

For example, if a parish practices daily adoration for several hours a day, but the adoration is interrupted during the night or for a period during the day, the bishop can authorize a lay extraordinary minister to expose and repose the Blessed Sacrament if no priest or deacon is available at the necessary times (see the 1973 document «Eucharistiae Sacramentum» of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Nos. 91-92).

Exposition and reposition by an extraordinary minister is always simple. The host is simply placed or removed from the monstrance and the pyx placed in the tabernacle. No incense is used and no servers are required, although the congregation may sing an appropriate Eucharistic hymn.

Does the Pope agree? Well, the Holy Father would certainly desire that there were sufficient ordinary ministers available for every parish in the world.

Since this is not the reality, I think that he would certainly support the use of approved extraordinary ministers in order to promote the continued practice of daily or perpetual adoration.

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