Liturgical Colors, Sacred Vessels and Mass Vestments

Catherine Fournier

I found this information in an old Missal, dated 1962. It is part of a detailed introductory section. At a time when Church attendance and literacy was high, one wonders why the publishers thought that the faithful needed or wanted this information.

But then, perhaps that's why there were so many faithful. They had all this information at their fingertips, they understood their faith very well, and they loved it.

Liturgical Colors:


The symbol of innocence and triumph (Apoc.3,5) It is used on all feasts of the joyful and glorious mysteries of our Lord's life (e.g. Christmas and Easter), on the feast of our Blessed Mother, on the feasts of angels and of all saints who were not martyrs.


The color of blood, is used on all feasts of our Lord's Cross and Passion, on the feasts of the Apostles and of all martyrs. Red is also used on Pentecost and in Masses of the Holy Spirit, in memory of the tongues of fire of the First Pentecost.


A symbol of penance and expiation. It is used during the penitential seasons of Advent, Septuagesima and Lent, and on fast days and vigils.


The color of budding and living vegetation, it is the symbol of hope. It is used on the Sundays after Epiphany and after Pentecost.

Old Rose:

This color is permitted, in place of purple, on the third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete) and on the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare), when the Church tempers the sadness of the penitential seasons with an invitation to rejoice in the goodness of God our Saviour.


Vestments made of real cloth of gold are permitted in place of white, red and green vestments


The color of death and mourning. It is used for the services of Good Friday and for Masses for the Faithful Departed.

The Mass Vestments

The Mass vestments were originally ordinary garments of the ancient Roman world. Although the fashions of dress changed with the passing centuries, the priest continued to wear at the altar the ancient Roman costume of his predecessors.

Thus, the priest, vested for mass, is a wonderful witness to the historical continuity of the Catholic Church with the primitive Church of Rome, founded by the Prince of the Apostles. In the order in which the priest puts them on, the Mass vestments are: The Amice: A square of white linen wrapped around the neck and covering the shoulders. In the Middle Ages, the Amice was worn as a hood to protect the head in cold churches. The Amice symbolizes the 'helmet of salvation' i.e.: the virtue of hope (1 Thess.5,8) that helps the priest to overcome the attacks of Satan.

The Alb:

A long, white linen garment reaching to the feet. The Alb symbolizes the innocence and purity that should adorn the soul of the priest who ascends the altar.

The Cincture:

The cord used as a belt to gird the Alb. It symbolizes the virtues of chastity and continence required of the priest.

The Maniple:

An ornamental vestment of colored silk or damask over the left forearms. Originally this vestment was a handkerchief carried in the left hand or thrown over the left arm. It symbolizes the labor and hardship the priest must expect in his ardent apostolate.

The Stole:

Roman magistrates wore a long scarf when engaged in their official duties, just as our judges wear a court gown. Whenever a priest celebrates Mass or administers the Sacraments, he wears the Stole as a sign that he is occupied with an official priestly duty. When placing the Stole about his neck, in vesting for Mass, the priest begs God to give him on the last day the 'garment of immortality' that was forfeited by our sinful first parents.

The Chasuble:

The outer vestment put on over the others. Originally this was a very full garment, shaped like a bell and reaching almost to the feet all the way round. Turing a bad artistic period, the 18th and 19th century especially, the Chasuble suffered much from a process of shortening a stiffening. Today there is a return to the historical and beautiful, ample, nicely draping Chasubles. The Chasuble symbolizes the virtue of charity, and the yoke of unselfish service for the Lord, which the priest assumes at ordination.

The Dalmatic:

An outer, sleeved tunic that came to Rome from Dalmatia, whence its name. It is worn in place of the chasuble, by the deacon and sub deacon during Solemn Mass. It symbolizes the joy and happiness that are the fruit of dedication to God.

The Sacred Vessels Needed for Mass

The Chalice:

A cup of precious metal (the inside must be gold or gold-plated), that holds the wine consecrated at Mass.

The Paten:

A small plate of precious metal that holds the sacred Host.

The Ciborium:

A large cup of precious metal with a cover of the same material, that contains the hosts consecrated for distribution to the Faithful in Holy Communion.

The Purificator:

A small linen cloth used by the priest to dry his fingers and the chalice, when he has washed and purified them after Communion.

The Corporal:

The linen cloth spread by the priest on the altar at the beginning of Mass. The chalice and host rest upon this cloth.

The Pall:

A small square of stiffened linen, or of cardboard covered with linen, used to cover the chalice.

The Chalice Veil:

A cloth covering, of the same color as the Chasuble, that conceals the chalice and paten up to the Offertory and after Communion.

The Burse:

A flat, square container of cloth, the same color as the vestments, in which the corporal is carried to and from he altar. It is placed over the veil on top of the chalice.

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