Red Chasuble on Good Friday

Date: March 17, 2024
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Question: The Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts, “Paschale Solemnitatis,” says in No. 59 concerning Good Friday that “On this day, in accordance with ancient tradition, the Church does not celebrate the Eucharist.” However, the rubric 5 in the Roman Missal for the Good Friday says that “The Priest and the Deacon, if a deacon is present, wearing red vestment as for Mass .…” Why is there a red chasuble used as for Mass, while there is no Mass? Can’t a priest and deacon simply wear stoles or the cope? – F.N.K., Diocese of Ndola, Zambia


Answer: The current norms represent a simplification and a change in practice with respect to the complex rite used before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.


In the previous rites (which may still be used by those authorized by the Holy See or the local bishop to follow the 1962 missal), the four moments that constitute the Good Friday celebration required distinct vesture. During the first part of the readings and the Passion the celebrant and deacon(s) wore alb, cincture and black stoles, and the subdeacon wore alb and cincture.


For the solemn prayers of intercession, the priest assumes a black cope, the deacon a dalmatic and the subdeacon a tunicle, also black. These three are removed at the end of the intercessions before the veneration of the Cross.


Just before the Communion procession the celebrant and the deacon remove their black stoles and vest in violet stoles. The priest then puts on a violet chasuble, the deacon a violet dalmatic and the subdeacon a violet tunicle.


It should be noted that the addition of the violet vestments, as for Mass, for the distribution of Communion had been a relatively recent innovation initiated in the reform of the Holy Week celebrations undertaken by Pope Pius XII in 1955 with the decree “Maxima Redemptionis Nostrae Mysteria.” Before this reform the custom of administrating Communion on Good Friday had fallen into disuse for several centuries.


Therefore, before Pius XII, there would have been no use of the chasuble on Good Friday, but the priest would have worn a black stole and a black cope for the prayers.


If we jump forward to the present rites, we can see that things have been changed and simplified.


On the one hand there are practically no rites that imply a change of the vestment color during the same celebration. There are some celebrations with processions which initiate with a cope and then change into chasuble. 


Red has substituted black and violet for all celebrations of the Passion so that Palm Sunday and Good Friday use the same color.


However, this simplification does not respond to our reader’s question as to why the chasuble is used, “as for Mass,” on Good Friday. As we have seen, this is the case in both the earlier and current rites and would seem to be intimately related to the distribution of Communion on this specific day.


It is a general rule that the Good Friday celebration can only take place in a church where the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper has been celebrated. The two celebrations are thus seen as forming a whole.


This is one reason why there is a procession at the end of the Holy Thursday Mass but no concluding blessing or dismissal of the congregation. This relation to the Mass was probably one reason behind the priest’s vesting in violet chasuble on Good Friday in the former rite and vesting from the beginning in red chasuble in the present rite.


Another reason could also be the practical reality of many parishes. For example, a red cope is foreseen for the procession on Palm Sunday, but most parishes, and indeed most churches that do not habitually celebrate the solemn Liturgy of the Hours, would have little use for a red cope. That is why the former rules allowed the priest to preside the procession in a red stole, and the current norms allow him to preside the procession in a red chasuble when a red cope is not available.


For Good Friday, however, it would have been practical for most parishes to use a black cope. In the former rites most parishes would have possessed such a vestment as they were commonly used for funeral rites. However, there were several rubrics which discouraged the use of black vestments in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and hence the required change to violet for the distribution of Communion.


For the current rite, since red copes are still not common, and wearing just a stole on this, one of the most solemn days in the liturgical calendar, would not seem to be appropriate, the indication of being vested as for Mass in red vestments is a simple solution and applicable to practically all churches.


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Readers may send questions to Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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