If you have paid attention at Mass or at other liturgies at Church, you will have noted how the priest’s vestments change through the various seasons. It’s possible that you might have asked yourself why the change and what the different colors might mean. Put simply, each piece of clothing and each color has a different meaning and invites us to a deeper understanding of what is going on during the liturgy.
In our visual age, the power and beauty that small details can (or should) have may be lost on us. Once during Mass, I lifted up my head and saw that the priest was using a red color. Red is an impressive color. When I discovered that it refers to the blood of Christ that he spilled for us – or that of the many Christian martyrs who died for their faith – I paid greater attention to the feast that we were celebrating.
These vestments and colors are truly symbols that can lead us to God and towards great and more beautiful participation in His mysteries. They also help us to recall the mission that all priests have.
Reflecting on the priesthood and its vestments, Pope Benedict spoke of how this represents a sort of putting on Christ, speaking and acting “in persona Christi”. For the priest, the vestments bear a very deep meaning; they are robes of love that reflect their special mission and identity in Christ. They reflect the gift of self, their obedience and their particular relationship with God. They are reminders of who they are and how they must strip themselves of all the worldly attachments, giving up their own lives in order to act in the name of Christ.
In this infographic, we have prepared an explanation for each piece of clothing, with both their meaning and the prayer that the priests usually prays while putting them on. This way, the next time we are at Mass, we can recall the generous response of these men and the particular way that God is working through them in our lives.
“Just as in Baptism an “exchange of clothing” is given, an exchanged destination, a new existential communion with Christ, so also in priesthood there is an exchange: in the administration of the sacraments, the priest now acts and speaks “in persona Christi”. In the sacred mysteries, he does not represent himself and does not speak expressing himself, but speaks for the Other, for Christ.” (Benedict XVI)