Liturgical Colors in the Byzantine Tradition and Roman Rite
ByzCatholic, Riteology

Liturgical Colours: Vestments in the East and West

Liturgical Colours

When I first started attending Divine Liturgies, I really missed the green. Now don’t get me wrong – the gold is beautiful – but green is my favourite colour! Green is the colour of vestments for priests during ordinary time in the Roman Rite. In the Eastern Churches, where ordinary time is replaced by the weeks after Epiphany and after Pentecost, gold vestments are worn for the majority of the time. Gold is worn even outside what Roman Catholics know as ordinary time. Priests in the East wear gold to celebrate the Resurrection, which we do every Sunday. Even during Great Lent we wear gold vestments on Sundays. There is a differentiation between bright gold and dark gold vestments. Bright gold is worn normally and during feasts, while dark gold is worn during fasts on a Sunday.

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Liturgical colours can get complicated! That is why I decided to create a guide explaining the differences between them in the West and the East.

What About GreenLiturgical Colours in Byzantine and Roman Catholicism

There are still Green vestments in the East (and they are soooo beautiful)! These are worn in particularly commemoration of the Holy Spirit. So while Roman Catholic priests wear red at Pentecost, Byzantine priests wear green. Green can continue to be used through the end of the post-Feast of Pentecost. Palm Sunday is listed as an occasion one can wear green, as well as during the feasts of venerable monastic saints.

Liturgical Colours during Great Lent and Lent

So if we are still wearing Gold on Sundays during Great Lent, what do we do during the week? Well, first of all, Divine Liturgy is not celebrated on weekdays during Great Lent. Instead we have a beautiful service called Pre-sanctified liturgy. It is called Pre-sanctified because we use Eucharist that has already been consecrated. For this liturgy the priests wear purple or a wine-red vestment. Purple is also worn by Roman Catholic priests during Lent, as well as during Advent. Roman Catholics also wear purple vestments for the sacrament of reconciliation.

During one Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday) and one Sunday of Advent (Guadete Sunday), Roman Catholics wear pink (rose) as a symbol of joy. There are no occasions when pink is used in Byzantine Churches.

And Liturgical Colours for Marián Feasts?

Blue is a fairly common liturgical colour in the East, and is worn most often after gold and red. It is the liturgical colour for Feasts of the Theotokos. And we celebrate Mary a lot in Byzantine Churches! Feasts of Archangels are also celebrated in blue.

Generally, blue is not used in the Roman Rite. They wear gold or white for feasts of Mary. However, in Spain and other countries where there is a strong devotion to Our Lady, permission has been granted for blue vestments to be worn for the immaculate conception. There are some further exceptions as well. If the West adopts blue for commemorations of Mary, you could see priests wearing blue vestments every Saturday during Roman Catholic masses.

When is Red used as a Liturgical Colour?

Often. In both Roman Catholic and Byzantine Catholic Churches. Byzantine Priests wear red for Holy Thursday, Feasts commemorating the cross of Christ, and for the Feast of the beheading of John the Baptist (also called the forerunner). Martyrs typically get red as well. Red is also worn during the Nativity Fast, which you can read more about here. Finally, Byzantine priests wear red for the Fast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

As I mentioned above, red is worn for Pentecost in the West. This is because they use red to symbolize the Holy Spirit. It is also worn on Palm Sunday, for feasts of the Passion, for martyrs, for apostles, and for evangelists.

More on TheByzantineLife

Don’t forget to save our guide to liturgical colours in the East and West on Pinterest! If you liked this article, be sure to check out our articles on the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Icon, Byzantine Holy Week, and the Nativity Fast.

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  1. Michael Casmer says:

    I have seen Pink/Rose vestments used in the Byzantine Rite. Also, Silver, and also silver in the Roman rite.

    1. Kyleshka says:

      Hmm! It must be a specific Byzantine rite which uses Pink/Rose. Do you remember where it was? I’d love to look into where that is done.

      Silver is often used as a form of white, in the same way that gold vestments are sometimes yellow.

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