Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Liturgical Colours for Lent in the Ambrosian Tradition

According to the Ambrosian liturgical tradition, this present week is the last week of the ordinary Lenten season before the beginning of the season "Authentica", that is what is normally known as Holy Week in the Roman Rite. In fact "Passiontide" in the Ambrosian Rite doesn't exist, nor the Holy Crucifix on the altar is ever veiled.

This shift gives an occasion to give our readership some information about the use of liturgical colours during Lent in the Ambrosian Rite.

First of all, it seems necessary to remind that, according to the Ambrosian Tradition, the whole Lenten time is "aeortological", that is no Saint's feast -apart from St. Joseph and the Annunciation, but only since 1902- is ever celebrated during Lent. Thus, almost on every Lenten weekday, the Mass is de feria, with the only exception of the above mentioned feasts, and, of course Fridays, that are always aliturgical in the Ambrosian tradition, and the celebration of the Mass in Ambrosian churches, and also in Roman churches by Ambrosian Rite priests, is strictly interdicted.

The liturgical colour for Lenten feriae is that of strict penance: black.

In fact, according to the Ambrosian tradition, black is not only the colour of mourning (and, as such, used for requiem Masses), but also the true color of penance and fast: in this sense it is used at least since the XII century not only for Lenten ferial days but also for the Minor Litanies, that in the Ambrosian Rite occur after the Ascension, not before like in the Roman tradition.

It is worth noting that the use of black for Lenten feriae has been recently restored as an option also in the ordinary form.

On Sundays, on the contrary, when penance is partially mitigated and fast is suspended, the colour used for liturgy is -or rather should be- a dark sort of violet called "morello", which is very different form the Roman "violaceo".

You can look at an instance of this difference in the photo given below, where, during a Pontifical Mass in the Cathedral (for the imposition of the ashes, which takes place at the beginning of Lent only in the ordinary form), the Archbishop of Milan is wearing morello vestments, while the deacon is wearing a roman violet dalmatic.

Rose vestments, in the Ambrosian tradition, are never used.

The use of black and morello vestments ends with the Thursday after the fifth Sunday of Lent.

The following Friday is, of course, aliturgical.

On the Saturday after the fifth Sunday of Lent -called "in Traditione Symboli" in memory of the teaching of the Symbolum (or Credo) to the Catechumens- the Ambrosian Church drops black and wears only red during the week "Authentica", including Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, until Easter Eve.

In fact, red is considered the colour of the Passion of Our Lord.

During the Easter Vigil, which has structure very different from the Roman one, the Celebrant and Major Ministers will drop red and wear white, which will be retained until the Saturday "in albis".

On the Sunday immediately afterwards, called "Dominica in Albis depositis", as the Neophites drop the white dress they received during the Paschal Vigil, so, for liturgical cermonies, white will be replaced with green, which will be used for the rest of Eastertide.

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