I confess: I’ve never seen a funeral celebrated with black vestments.
We don’t even have a set of them in my parish. I asked my pastor, ordained nearly 40 years, if he’d ever seen black vestments used and he said no.
But as we commemorate the faithful departed this month, “Liturgy Guy” Brian Williams makes the case for them:
While black is the required liturgical color for All Souls Day and all funerals in the Traditional Latin Mass, it has all but disappeared from the Novus Ordo. White, a color historically associated with baptism and other celebrations, has instead replaced black in most parishes these past forty years. Beginning with the election of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, and continuing with the resurgence of the Old Rite following the release of Summorum Pontificum in 2007, an entire generation of tradition friendly priests have begun to rediscover the rich meaning behind the use of black vestments. Father Ryan Erlenbush, writing several years back at The New Theological Movement , noted:
Black signifies mourning, but not simply mourning in general. Rather, black directs us in a particular way to mourn and pray for the dead. While white is a color of festivity and rejoicing, violet is the color which signifies penance and sorrow for sin.
However, violet directs us more to mourning for our own sins, and to performing penance for our own wretchedness. Black, on the other hand, helps to direct us to mourn not for ourselves but for the deceased. This is why black is so fitting for the funeral Mass (as well as Requiems and All Souls): The color reminds us to pray for the dead.Put simply, the use of black vestments is authentically Catholic. The dogmatic truth that we, the Church Militant, must pray for the dead is reaffirmed by the use of black within the Mass. This is yet another example of our liturgy reinforcing our theology: lex orandi, lex credendi. It is also a teaching of the Church not held, or understood, by most Protestants.
Read it all and see what you think.