Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Traditional Liturgical Colors and Church Flowers

This post is in answer to questions about whether at the traditional Latin Mass there are any liturgical norms regarding the color of altar flowers in relation to feast days.

As far as I have been able to ascertain, there are no norms about the color of the flowers. There are, of course, norms specifying the color of the priest's vestment and the altar frontal for the various days of the liturgical year. (The "frontals" are not to be confused with the altar cloths, which rest on top of the altar and drape over the sides. They are always white.)

Therefore, when planning church flowers one needs to take into account how the color or colors of the flowers will look with the colors of the vestment and altar frontal.

There is a good article about liturgical colors for the Mass according to the 1962 Missal here.

The basics are these:
White is for the seasons of Christmas and Easter, the feasts of Our Lord and Our Lady, and the feasts of angels, All Saints, and saints who are not martyrs.

Red is for the feasts of the Precious Blood, the Holy Ghost (e.g. Pentecost), the Holy Cross, apostles and martyrs.

Green is for Sundays and Ferias after Epiphany and after Pentecost.

Violet is for Advent and Lent (when no flowers should be used at all), on Rogation and Ember Days (except those of Pentecost when red is used), and for the season of Septuagesima and Vigils (except those of the Ascension and Pentecost).

Rose instead of violet may be used on Gaudete Sunday (during Advent) and Laetare Sunday (during Lent), and gold or silver and white may be used instead of white when white is prescribed.
Since white is the liturgical color for the feasts of Our Lady, such as the upcoming Solemnity of the Assumption, and the norms permit white to be substituted with gold, or with a combination of silver and white, one needs to check with the sacristan to find out which of these is going to be used and plan accordingly.

Beyond that, the best rule to keep in mind is that of the Ceremonial of Bishops: "The adornment and decor of a church should be such as to make the church a visible sign of love and reverence toward God." (No. 38.)

Photograph of altar with frontal (probably on Easter), from Sancta Missa.


Marie-Jacqueline said...

Hello everyone,

There were quite a few comments to this post that were accidentally deleted this morning. I just want everyone to know the deletion was not intentional.

Marie-Jacqueline said...

CAVEAT: There are two liturgical norms that all church flower arrangers should know: (1) Flowers may NEVER go on the actual altar (mensa) - they belong on the altar shelf behind the altar or elsewhere. (2) With certain exceptions that include Laetare Sunday and Guadete Sunday, no altar flowers are permitted during Advent or Lent. These principles are addressed in various posts on this site.