Heaven, Hell and Purgatory: the Reality of Sin
At times, the argument is made that the use of black is contrary to our Christian belief in the resurrection. While Christians are indeed a people of hope who believe in the resurrection of the dead this should in no way be understood as contrary to the use of black. While we are a people of hope, we are also called to be a people aware of the reality of sin, death and judgment. Our salvation, and that of our loved one's, while we hope for it -- and in our own case, work to attain it -- is not a foregone conclusion. Pretending it is so does neither us nor our loved one's any substantial good. If we obscure these realities, or presume the heavenly bliss of the faithful departed (what some refer to as "instant canonizations"), we really are being rather devoid of charity in point of fact -- like presuming a sick family member is not so sick as to need care and tending and therefore go merrily along our way without regard for them or their current state.
This presumption has another side effect for us: what we presume for others we may well also presume for ourselves and therefore we potentially neglect the state of our own soul. If we neglect the reality of sin and judgment by presuming salvation for the dead -- not facing any other reality or possibility, including the possibility of purgatory -- why should we think any differently for ourselves or strive to live a life of greater holiness and with more perfect contrition and penance?
The somber, reserved, mournful tone of black vestments on All Souls (or at Requiems) can be a powerful reminder then, not only of the prayers (and particularly the Masses) we should offer for our dead, but also of the need to care for the state of our own soul.
On this Feast of All Souls our priest came out in black vestments. The chalice veil was also black. He used his homily to provide very sound, basic catechesis on the doctrine of Purgatory. Our goal is not to just slip in the back door of Purgatory, but rather to desire Heaven. Father emphasized the reality of both Heaven and Hell and advised us to live our lives accordingly. He noted the black vestments serve as a reminder to us that the souls of the dead need our prayers. He implored us to pray for the souls in Purgatory: our friends and family as well as the unknown souls who have no one else to pray for them.
This dear priest was just ordained this past June. There is great hope for the Church if he is typical of what they are graduating from the seminaries these days!