Black is back!
A couple of weeks ago in one of the comments (anonymous) the readers of this blog were referred to as "mostly right-wingers". I've been meaning to take the person to task, as being described as "right-wing" or even "traditional" is one of my bug-bears. One of the speakers at the Confraternity Conference in Reading (I think it was Archbishop De Noia) also mentioned that he took great exception to secular tags being applied to faith matters. I consider myself neither left nor right wing when it comes to the Church, neither conservative nor liberal, neither traditional nor liberal but simply ORTHODOX. There is nothing right-wing nor conservative about being faithful to Our Lord and the Church he founded. It is not traditional to hold fast to the constant teaching of the Church on female 'ordiantion', or same sex 'marriage' - either you hold the teaching of the Church or you don't. There are not two different versions of the Faith - a traditional one and a progressive one - there is just THE Faith. Within that Faith there are certainly different interpretations on things that the Church allows us to hold differing views on. The trouble is that very many people today appear to hold different views on some quite essential matters that have been defined and taught by the Church where She does not envisage any differing viewpoints; where what is to be held fast is written down for all to see in black and white (or black and red, rubrically speaking).
The wonderful feast of All Souls brings a liturgical point to mind in this matter. There is an excellent post in relation to this on the New Theological Movement Site. It is considered - by some - very old-fashioned, right-wing, traditional, call it what you will, to wear black vestments for Requiem Masses - be it All Souls Day or funerals and yet the rubrics indicate that black, along with violet or white on occasion (presumably in certain Asian and African countries where white is the traditional colour of mourning) are all permissible. I recall on more than one occasion visiting priests to parish funerals refusing to wear black vestments. I wonder what opprobrium would come my way if I turned up at a diocesan funeral and refused to wear white or violet - the point is, I have never done that because these other colours are allowed (although in the case of white this might be another one of those instances where local custom for some foreign clime has been taken as carte blanche to do it everywhere see Fr Ray Blake's post).
So for All Souls - for both forms of the Roman Rite - I will be wearing black.
I don't know who wrote the English version of the General Introduction for the Order of Christian Funerals but it certainly has a bias. Number 39 says, " Black is used as a token of mourning but in our society, increasingly, without the associations of Christian hope." Mourning and, therefore, praying for the dead is not to my mind, "without Christian hope". In fact the all-purveying attitude of "celebrating" the life of the deceased instead of praying for the forgiveness of their sins is what is really without the association of Christian hope. For a prime example of why this should not happen under any circumstances, witness the near beatification of Jimmy Saville, complete with golden casket, and the assurance that we "can be confident that Jimmy is now with God". We should not blame the poor priest who said those words, he was simply doing what happens at nearly every funeral that I attend, read or hear about.
In fact, the Order of Christian Funerals from the 1980's - prepared by the Liturgy Office of the Bishop's Conference of England and Wales and ICEL is lacking in many areas. There are particular prayers for all sorts of classes of person - from a deceased non-Christian married to a Catholic to those who died as catechumens - but no specific texts for the majority of funerals that most priests have to carry out - funerals for those who are lapsed from the practice of the Faith, often who have abandoned any outward sign of the Faith for many, many years. I don't have many funerals in my present little parish but when I was in Wigan for nine years as parish priest it was not unusual to have two or three a week. What I noticed was that the prayers all presume a fervent. practising Catholic - albeit, recognising the pervasive presence of sin even in the lives of those described in many of the prayers as God's "servants", our brother / sister who ate the Body of Christ, the Bread of Life - except they hadn't since being at school. So, are we to "celebrate" these lives that have, to all intents and purposes seemingly abandoned the Faith that would save sinners or mourn for them properly and pray for their souls?
Black signifies mourning, but not simply mourning in general.
Rather, black directs us in a particular way to mourn and pray for the dead.