Liturgical Colours of Lent in the Ambrosian Rite

The Ambrosian rite has always been of great interest to me, and as we are now within Lent it seemed an apropos time to revisit an old article written by my friend and colleague Nicola de Grandi, written back in 2010 for New Liturgical Movement. In his article he speaks to some of the traditions kept in the Ambrosian tradition during this time. His article presents some information that may come as a surprise to those only familiar with the Roman rite, specifically in relation to black as the historical colour of penance -- something we recently touched on here in relation to blue vestments and how they, along with purple, were considered an acceptable variant on black for penitential times. In view of that, the continued Ambrosian tradition helps to round out some of these considerations: 

...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.

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.

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