What do the colors of the priest’s vestments mean? This question is asked frequently, and once again was asked of me just recently.
In the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the colors of the vestments evolved over the course of several centuries and there was a wide variation both in the colors used, and the feasts and seasons accolated with particular colors. It was Pope Innocent III who gave us the basic outline that was later prescribed by Pope Saint Pius V in 1570. The various colors reminds us of the dominant themes of a particular season or celebration.
White is used for the season of Christmas and Easter and in celebrations of the Lord, of Mary, the angels, and saints who are not martyrs. White is also used in Masses for the dead, at baptism, weddings and other festive celebrations. Red is the color of both blood and fire. Red is used on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, as well as Pentecost and special celebrations of the Holy Spirit. It is used on the feasts and memorials of the Apostles and those saints who died as martyrs.
Violet or purple is used for Advent and Lent. It may also be used in Masses for the dead and on All Souls Day.
Green is the color of life and hope. It is used throughout Ordinary Time which is the current season of our Liturgical Calendar.
Other colors are also used from time to time. For example Rose is used on the Third Sunday of Advent and the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Gold or silver is sometimes worn on solemn occasions in place of white, red or green.