7 April 2023

Are you sure it's Red today?

                                 BLACK OR RED?

In 2009, the late Professor Richard Parish of this University delivered a quite brilliant series of Bampton Lectures (you can't get more prestigious than that) on seventeenth century French Catholicism. In the course of one of them, quite obiter, he mentioned the effect that seeing the liturgical colour Red on Good Friday must have had on people's devotion. It got me thinking ...

 ... in fact, thinking so much that, called as I am by Providence to be a pedant, I popped into Queen's College library and looked at their Missale Parisiense to check.

You've guessed: the colour was indeed Black. An example, perhaps, of how even the very clever and very learned can instinctively assume that what they have by habituation come to see as normative may in fact be a fashion of yesterday. It is a suggestive instance of the rupture which attacked Catholic worship during the changes sponsored by Pius XII and subsequent pontiffs. To be fair: when Hannibal Bugnini began the alteration of Holy Week in the 1950s, even he did not then dare to give this Day its modern liturgical colour of Red. That only came later. [Bugnini did at that time order Violet for the Communion Service which concludes today's Liturgy; the Ordinariate Missal - see below - does not follow him in this.]

Perhaps you may be wondering whether, on this Day of the Lord's Passion, the history of liturgical colours ought to be the subject uppermost in my mind. You have a point. You so often do. But I think there is a real question here. Red is an obvious colour because the Lord Today shed his Precious Blood (in many medieval uses, Red is indeed the colour). But is there not a degree of superficiality involved in therefore using Red? Dom Gueranger explains that we use Black because of our own feeling of immense grief on this day of all days. It might be added that Black makes this day almost unique ... because it is almost unique. My own instinct is that in a liturgical culture in which Black is used for Requiems and funerals, there is a lot to be said for using it for Good Friday too: it makes the point that our Lord dies as truly as Aunt Mildred died last December; His Glorious Resurrection most certainly does not ... in some way ... cancel out the reality of His Death. And that Death is the real Death into which we each died at our Baptism; the real Death by which all may be saved. 

I think therefore that there is a good case for the option afforded by the Ordinariate Missal, to return to the 'Tridentine' tradition of Black vestments on Good Friday.

                                     HOLY COMMUNION?

It is recorded that King George V could never understand why his ecclesiastical household did not allow him to receive Holy Communion on Good Friday. Perhaps, in our age of frequent Communion, restraint from the Sacrament on the Day of the Lord's Death has all the more power to mark its uniqueness. The distinctly intelligent Anglican manual Liturgy and Worship (1932; p 738) writes " ... the end of the service is perhaps the most moving ceremony of the whole liturgical year. No one who has not experienced it can realise what a climax it makes to the observance of Good Friday, or how near we are brought in spirit to the Divine Victim of the Cross. In theory perhaps we ought to wish for a restoration of the general Communion of Good Friday, but in practice the very fact of abstinence from Communion is felt by many to enhance the essential feeling of the day, that the Bridegroom is taken away from us."

[That particular chapter of Liturgy and Worship was written by Kenneth Donald Mackenzie, Bishop of Brechin, who was much involved in the Anglo-Catholic Congresses.]


frjustin said...

On Good Friday morning, the Maronite rite celebrates a unique anaphora of the “Signing of the Chalice”. It is a celebration of the Divine Liturgy with no Words of Institution, but with communion under both Species.

During the ceremony, the priest invokes the Holy Spirit to descend upon a chalice placed at the altar and make it the Blood of Christ to be given during the communion with the hosts consecrated the night before in the Liturgy of Holy Thursday.

In the afternoon, a distinct liturgy of the Adoration of the Cross is celebrated.

Atticus said...

Kenneth Donald Mackenzie
Would have been driven into a frenzy
Had he foreseen his successors in Brechin
And the havoc they'd be wreakin'.

Fr PJM said...

How about vestments specially and only for Good Friday: black with red orphreys? After all, He is not just *any* martyr; He's just any old Person who has died.

vetusta ecclesia said...

The Storrington Premonstratentions (“ On monks I did in Storrington fall”)used to abstain from Communion from Maundy Thursday to the Easter Vigil.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

The Use of York mandated that like the Roman - papal usage apart (papa in rubro luget) black on Good Friday.


The Saint Bede Studio said...

Sometimes red vestments can be a very dark hue and not ornamented brightly. The effect is rich and sombre. Is this not an acceptable compromise for the liturgical colour of Palm Sunday and Good Friday?

Grant Milburn said...

17th Century French Catholicism...

Yes, after watching the liturgical dancing at my local parish, I wondered what le Roi Soleil made of the liturgical dances in the chapel at Versailles. My guess is that he was very fond of them, and often took part himself. If any rigid priest objected, he would retort in true Gallican spirit: L'église, c'est moi.

Rubricarius said...

Again it is yet another example of the inconsistencies and randomness of the reforms. The Roman tradition, as we know, was the use of violet for all of Lent changing to white on Holy Saturday. Other traditions did use red for Holy Week (e.g. Milan) or for all of Passiontide. My understanding is that where 'Passiontide red' was used the hue was a dark hue, 'oxblood', and not the festive red one would use say for Pentecost or May 1st.

Where Passiontide red was used it was consistent and carried on until Holy Saturday. The modern Roman use of red on Palm Sunday stands out like the proverbial sore thumb, particularly where veiling still takes place. Looking at services on the Web I saw an antependium in an Irish church that consisted of squares of alternating red and violet. The effect was revolting. I have noticed a lot of Irish Palm Sundays now use violet which is more consistent and looks better.

As to Good Friday in the days before the reform of the Papal Court the pope did not wear red per se but a peony coloured mantel (cope) for the Mass of the Presanctified at which the celebrant wore a black chasuble etc.

The height of inconsistency has to be the 1956 Easter Vigil creation where there are numerous changes between violet and white that breaks the symbolism of the old Roman Holy Saturday.

Far better to return to tradition and remove red from Roman Holy Week.

William Weedon said...

Missouri Synod Lutherans still use black for Good Friday.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

Hear, hear, Rubricarius!


Hans Georg Lundahl said...

The Church who is the real bride, celebrates her birthday on Good Friday.

And born a widow, she celebrates she is a widow, even if her died husband is risen.

I think there is a certain point for those who take red or violet instead, I think these colours are also under other names known as their liturgic identities.

Albertus said...

At our traditional-rite personsl parish today, we used black throughout.

PM said...

As you rightly say, Father, 'our Lord dies as truly as Aunt Mildred died last December; His Glorious Resurrection most certainly does not ... in some way ... cancel out the reality of His Death.'

I recall a homily by Simon Tugwell OP at the Oxford chaplaincy in which he rounded on the habit of our 1970s vernacularisers of burying a striking statement under layer upon layer of insipidity. He was referring to the 'Agnus qui vivit semper occisus' in the Preface rendered in plodding, didactic style as 'the Lamb once slain who lives forever'. Fr Tugwell pointed out that the Latin is suggesting something much more challenging: 'He lives, forever slain'.