As I write this entry, we are about to begin the second season of Ordinary Time in the Church’s Liturgical Calendar –the first being the Sundays after Epiphany. We have just finished the season of Easter which ends with the Ascension, Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. This first Sunday after Trinity, the liturgical colours–that is, the colours of the fabrics adorning the altar and the pulpit, and the vestments worn by the priest –change from white to green, which is the colour used for ordinary time.
I seem to notice the change of colours more at this time of year. I think this is because we change liturgical colours from white to green at a time when the world around us is greening up with lawns that are thickening and trees that are filling with shade providing leaves. As the world greens up the liturgical colour changes to green. And this always makes me think of what the different colours mean that we use in church through the year.
The Church year begins in Advent, which is a time of preparation for the arrival of the Christ child –the Messiah. It is a time to look both back at the first Christmas and forward to the reign of Christ. The colour for Advent is either blue or purple – some parishes use blue, as we do; others use purple. The colours signify the penitence, expectation and hope of the season. They are also the colours of royalty to herald the coming of a King.
The next season in the Church year is the season of Christmas, the colour for which is either white or gold. These colours signify the glory, triumph and joy of the season and also light, as Jesus came to be the Light of the World.
After Christmas come the Sundays after Epiphany –the first season of Ordinary time in the Church year. The colour for this season is green. Green is the colour of growth and refers to our growth in faith as we learn and mature in our relationship with Jesus.
The next season is Lent during which the colour in the church is purple. As mentioned above, purple is the colour of penitence and expectation. Lent is a season of preparation before we observe Holy Week and celebrate the resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.
This forty-day season of penitence and preparation is followed by the Easter Season, when the colour is changed again to white to signify, as mentioned above, glory, triumph, and joy in the resurrection of Jesus. This season also lasts for forty days until the ascension, which is followed ten days later by Pentecost. At Pentecost, the colour is changed from white to red, which signifies the fire of the Holy Spirit.
And then there are the Sundays after Pentecost or after Trinity Sunday, which I mentioned above is the season we are just about to enter, when the colour is once again green. The seasons of green are times of growth and maturing in faith as we follow the teaching and ministry of Jesus Christ in the Sunday readings from Scripture.
And so, we have the changing colors of the liturgical seasons through the church year. When there is a special life event, such as a baptism, a wedding or a funeral, we use the colour white. When we observe the feast day of a saint, particularly a patronal saint, we use the colour red. At St. James, our patronal feast day is on May 1st–the feast day of the apostles Saint Philip and Saint James.
Beginning this Sunday, however, we change to green; the perfect colour for the summer months. When we take time from our daily routines to enjoy a break and to spend time engaged in our favorite summer pastimes. May we all have opportunities to enjoy the coming weeks of sun and warm weather; and may we be reminded of the love of God that surrounds us as we notice the colour green in church and in the world around us.