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Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: Blue Vestments

by Catherine Frakas 29 Jan 2001

Blue Vestments QUESTION from David Smith December 25, 2001 I once read an article about liturgical colours. The article listed the colours used the Church's Mass vestments, but blue was not included. So I assumed that blue was not an option, and I assumed that the information given in the article was correct.
But recently, I visited the Vatican website. I clicked at the Liturgies link, in the English language homepage, and entered the page of the Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations. At some point, I clicked at the Calendar link, and a page was opened with a calendar of all the main liturgical celebrations presided by the Pope during the year. There is a link called a moment during the liturgy under many of the events listed in the calendar. By clicking in that link, you se photos of the Mass of the day. I cliked on all such links.
When I entred the link to the photos of Ash Wednsday, I saw something unexpected: Everybody was wearing purple, but the Pope had a blue vestment. It was dark blue, but was not purple. It was blue.
Of course the Pope would not wear illicit Vestments. There must be an explanation. Perhaps the Pope is not bound by liturgical law, or perhaps the Vatican has recently changed the law by adding blue as an option. Perhaps the article was mistaken and blue has always been a licit colour for Mass.
So, my questions are the following:-
Is blue an approved liturgical colour?
By the way, what are the approved colours and their respective seasons?
Does liturgical law bind the Supreme Pontiff?
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on January 3, 2002 Dear Mr. Smith,
Blue is not an approved liturgical color. The General Instruction names the approved colors and their season.

308. Traditional usage should be retained for the vestment colors.a. White is used in the offices and Masses of the Easter and Christmas seasons; on feasts and memorials of the Lord, other than of his passion; on feasts and memorials of Mary, the angels, saints who were not martyrs, All Saints (1 November), John the Baptist (24 June), John the Evangelist (27 December), the Chair of St. Peter (22 February), and the Conversion of St. Paul (25 January).
b. Red is used on Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) and Good Friday, Pentecost, celebrations of the Lord's passion, birthday feasts of the apostles and evangelists, and celebrations of martyrs.
c. Green is used in the offices and Masses of Ordinary Time.
d. Violet is used in Lent and Advent. It may also be worn in offices and Masses for the dead.
e. Black may be used in Masses for the dead.
f. Rose may be used on Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent).

So, blue is not included and therefore not permitted.
Does liturgical law bind the Supreme Pontiff? Yes. Liturgy does not belong to one man, one pope, one parish priest, whatever. Divine Liturgy is the prayer of the church and belongs to the church. That is why it is considered and abuse to mess around with it and change it so that it fits one's own tastes rather than those of the church that are laid out in liturgical law. It is also an abuse of unity when one changes the Liturgy from the set of rules that are followed by everyone else in the Roman Rite. We all follow the same rules. Now, some liturgical laws can be PARTICULAR to the Pope or bishops that parish priests would not follow... For example, a bishop says Peace be with you at the beginning of Mass and priests cannot. But there is no exception that I am aware of that permits the pope to wear blue.
You said that Of course the Pope would not wear illicit Vestments. Not exactly. Although the Pope generally presides over very reverent and solid Liturgies, he has been observed to not be absolutely strict with the laws. This issue of the blue vestment feels odd to me, since it as an abuse that traditional/conservative priests are likely to make, often those priests that normally are strict with the rules. Usually blue is worn (illicitly) on feasts or the Blessed Mother.
But there is one more thing I can think of:

On solemn occasions more precious vestments may be used, even if not of the color of the day.(n.309)
Ash Wednesday would qualify as a solemn occasion. I don't know if blue could be interpreted to be a precious vestment, or if precious vestments may be of colors other than those already approved. the instruction is not clear.
Mr. Slavek
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