25 March 2024

Good Friday: what colour is suitable for a Dies Amaritudinis?

 (In a few remarks during Holy Week, I draw on information in the Commentary on the 1955 Holy Week by Braga and Bugnini.)

Incidentally, I rather like the old Latin appellation Great Week.

In the Ordinariate Missal, the rubric intimates that the "Priest and Sacred Ministers, wearing Red or Black vestments ...". This permissive use of Black is interesting and tempting. In the 'reformed' rite of 1955, the rule was still the use of Black, long customary in the Roman Rite (exchanged for Violet in the part of the rite which involves the Most Blessed Sacrament). I do not see the point of Red, the modern usage, a colour which is also used at Pentecost and on other occasions. Is there any more sombre and sober marker of this unique Day than the denuded church and the Ministers, in Black, silently making their way to the Sanctuary?

S Ambrose calls this Day a Dies Amaritudinis; that is, of luctus et dolor (bitterness ... sorrow ... anguish). Dictionaries quote Cicero and Quintilian and talk of passionate expression, pathos). It is necessary, I think, for us occasionally to face up to the role (or absence) of psychology in our liturgical deliberations. I do not think that it is entirely healthy to relegate such considerations entirely to those eras of Christian history which in our lordly way we might consider more emotional or affective. Is our religion not designed to apply to every part of our lives and personalities? If I were in a Hispanic area (and healthy enough), I would take the advantage of all those rites and public, communal usages which centre upon baroque images of the Sacred. Call me a peasant if you like ...

And if Amaritudo has no relevance on this particular Day, when will it be relevant?

I suspect that the old Anglo-Catholic practice of devotions to Maria Desolata on the evening of Good Friday (and then to Maria Consolata on Easter Sunday) does have its point.


Matthew said...

There is precedent in this country (GB) for the use of Passiontide Red, a quite different shade from that of Pentecost and feasts of martyrs. It sometimes has black orphreys.

Rubricarius said...

One should also point out that not only was black the traditional colour of Good Friday but the quality of vestments used, i.e. black folded chasubles for the ministers, was unique to the day and only used for the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified.

Kathleen1031 said...

Hello Fr. Hunwicke, God bless you!

Black cassocks have a message all their own, words not needed. The black conveys a seriousness that is lacking in all other colors of clothing. On a subliminal level most people understand this it seems, and it is part of Western culture as well. We all understand black. A priest in a black cassock is a figure to be taken seriously, all of us wear slacks, nothing serious there, and the farther away from solid black you get, the figure is to be taken even less seriously.
But a priest in a black cassock is a figure of seriousness AND piety. Unless he beclowns himself in some way, he is going to be respected by most. Most men in black cassocks thankfully do not beclown themselves, generally speaking.
This seriousness and piety is why today's church targets it's wearing. Synodal church or Clown church has animosity toward both seriousness and piety, it wants neither. And wants us to have neither, as well. It actively works to steal such ideals from us today, in many ways.
That's a sour note, but, I wish you a very happy and blessed Holy Week, Fr. Hunwicke!

Protasius said...

Red vestments on Good Friday go back far beyond the time of Bugnini; the 1703 Caeremoniale Parisiense prescribes both black and red vestments for different clerics, as follows:
- black vestments for Celebrant and ministers, that is chasuble and folded chasubles;
- six albs for the readers of the first and second lesson and those singing the first and second tract;
- two black copes for the priests singing "Popule meus etc.";
- two albs with as many red stoles and maniples for the deacons carrying the cross;
- two red copes for the priests singing "Agios etc.";
- two albs for the subdeacons singing the hymn "Pange lingua";
- two or four black copes for the priests carrying the baldachin.

Caron's 1846 Manuel des Cérémonies for the diocesan usage of Paris has the same vestments, except that the folded chasubles are replaced by black dalmatic and tunicle. To the best of my knowledge, this remained so until the Archdiocese of Paris dropped its diocesan rite and followed the Missale Romanum.

The main color remains black, however,

Matthew F Kluk said...

Very well written, very well said!

kedwardrobinson said...

Matthew reminds me that, during my Anglican days, most of the parish churches to which I was attached possessed vestments in what we called "Passiontide Red". They always incorporated black detail, and were extremely different from what one would have used on (for example) Pentecost. But I was never able to discover the origin or extent of this custom, and whether for example it was a later peculiarity of English Anglo-Catholicism. Certainly it appears completely unknown in contemporary English Catholicism.

Rubricarius said...

My understanding is that 'Passiontide Red' aka 'Oxblood' was used in many English pre-Reformation uses from Passion Sunday through to Easter Eve.

The issue with the introduction of festal red in the Roman rite is also one of inconsistency. Whilst I would not like it having red for the whole period rather than changing back to violet etc.