21 April 2009

Sunday's Bible Study: On Liturgical Colors

Blame Gary Mueth. It was his suggestion! But a good one: a review of the colors used in the Church year and WHY they are used for different times. Just as Joseph of old (a prime type of Christ our Lord) had a coat of many colors, so does the Church celebrate our Lord's life as a coat of many colors too!

Although St. Paul’s doesn’t have gold paraments (the term for the hangings upon the altar, pulpit, and lectern) or vestments (the pastor’s stole and chasuble), this color is used ONLY for Easter and its week. Why gold? Gold is the color of riches and glory - and we confess that by His resurrection Christ has earned for us a treasure that is even greater than gold or silver: an inheritance! See 1 Peter 1:3-5. Gold is a theme that runs through the description of our heavenly inheritance in Revelation (see 1: 13; 4:4; 5:8; 8:3; 21:18; 21:21)

White is upon the altar throughout the season of Easter and at Christmastime and on All Saints. It is also used on days commemorating saints who did not die martyr’s deaths (such as St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist). White symbolizes perfection, celebration, divinity, joy. Check out the white that shows up in these passages: Mark 9:2,3; John 20:12; Revelation 7:13,14.

Purple and Scarlet
Purple and scarlet are the ancient color of royalty. They’ve become in the Church colors associated with our Lord’s Passion, and hence, with the season of Lent: Matthew 27:27-29; Mark 15:16-17. If a Church has scarlet, it is used for Palm Sunday through Holy Thursday. Purple is used for the remainder of Lent.

Red, the color of blood (Revelation 6:7) and of fire, is used in the Church whenever she celebrates the days of martyrs (who shed their blood for Christ) or on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended in tongues as of fire and on “churchy” occasions: dedication of church or ordination. Red reminds us of Tertullian's famous saying: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."

Blue is the color of the sky, our eternal hope. Thus it is especially associated with Advent, with Christ’s coming to bring us to our home in heaven. See Exodus 24:10. In the church’s art, the color blue is also closely associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and thus the tie in to Advent is also obvious.

Green is the most widely used color of the Church year, it’s “ordinary color” if you will. Green signfies growth and we stay green and fruitful as we live our lives by the streams of God’s Word and Sacraments: Psalm 1:1-3; Jeremiah 17:7-8; John 15:5; Rev. 22:1-2

Black is the color of darkness, of death, of ashes, of sorrow and grief. It is used on Days of Penitence and Prayer in the Church and can be used on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Esther 4:1; Daniel 9:3; Micah 3:6; Matthew 27:45.

Conclusion: Through her creative use of color, the Church seeks to raise our hearts and minds to the wonderful things that our God has done for us in Jesus Christ; to call us to repentance; to keep us mindful of the Word of God that keeps us in saving faith; to help us together proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light!


orthodoxy hunter said...

Blue is the color of your blog banner.

christl242 said...

This is a great post. I fell away from church attendance in my late teens for some time (sigh). When I returned to regular worship one of the things that "kicked in" for me in visiting various churches was the fact that our Lutheran churches celebrate the liturgical year and the colors that correspond to it.

Some things one never forgets from one's youth. The value of symbol and form, properly employed, are inestimable.


Anonymous said...

Can I use this in my church's newsletter? I'm always looking to get out of writing things.

Bethany Tanis

William Weedon said...

Indeed it is, Jen!

Christine, thanks!!!

Bethany, help yourself!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Pastor Weedon. I'll alter them a little for FLC in Boston and have to add a rose/pink section for us (I'm a little afraid to mention that color anymore though!) if that's OK.
Bethany Tanis

Rev. James Leistico said...

you forgot White for Holy Trinity (and we use White for Maundy Thursday too). After these and a few other corrections, I handed this out to my Adult Instruction Class last night.