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Amma Sue - November 2014
Why do we keep changing the colour of the altar frontal, the lectern fall, the vicar’s stole and the burse and veil over the chalice? A question that I have often been asked, and not only by confirmation candidates either!
Human beings are not just “heads on legs” but have at least five senses (and possibly more!) It’s a fact that the Church has appreciated for a very long time – centuries in fact; that’s why churches have such things as stained glass windows, banners, statues, carvings and beautiful kneelers. Indeed God has from time to time given some very detailed instructions about how to build and decorate places of worship. In the Book of Exodus we find God going into minute detailwith Moses about how to decorate the Tent of Meeting which was to be the template for the Temple at Jerusalem that Solomon eventually built [Exodus chapters 25 to 30 &1 Kings chapter 6]. Worship is about more than words and people of faith have always wanted to set places apart as sacred to God and to offer their very best to God and that includes arts and crafts as well.
The association of particular colours with times and seasons and with special occasions has a long history and a good psychology, as we understand more and more about the emotional impact that colour has on our lives. It seems only natural that we associate certain colours with certain things e,g, red with blood; yellow with energy; white with purity etc. And the use of colour in Christian worship has a very long history; we find discussions about what colours priests and deacons should wear from as early as the 5th Century A.D. By the twelfth century we find even more evidence that certain colours had become to be associated with certain times in the Christian year and for special festivals such as Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Epiphany and Ascension etc. Today these seasonal variations, Liturgical Colours, are used for altar frontals, vestments, banners and other hangings in Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox churches throughout the world. And indeed many of the Free Church denominations have also begun to follow this ancient tradition.
As a general rule the following colours are used at different times in the Church’s year: Lent and Advent =Purple; Easter and Christmas= White and Gold; Pentecost, Christ the King and Feasts of Martyrs =Red; Ordinary time =Green.
So, as we change to Purple for Advent at the end of the month and then begin to think about getting the Christmas decorations out, let’s give praise to God for the wondrous variety of colours that we find both in the natural world and in the colours invented by human ingenuity!
With every blessing Amma Sue.
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