As Head Verger I regularly get asked about the colour of the robes the clergy wear at the Eucharist and about the significance of wearing a particular colour and why do they change about so often and do they always have to match the altar frontal and pulpit fall and all the other hangings and I say yes and then explain that the liturgical colours have been in use since the Middle Ages and are both a teaching device and a way of marking days and seasons thank you very much.
White is used for Christmas, Epiphany, and Easter and their seasons and symbolizes joy and celebration and gladness and light and purity and innocence and is associated with festivals of Christ and of saints who presumably died a natural death though of course we don't really know about many of them whether they existed or not but we like to think so as it makes us feel holy don't you think?
Green is the colour of growth and foliage and fruit and leaves though of course the latter are brown in autumn when I have to continually sweep them up from the cathedral porch otherwise they would blow in and make the place look untidy dear me and therefore green is used for the season after Pentecost called Ordinary Time which means days that fall outside of any special season.
Red symbolises fire and blood and is used for Pentecost and for days commemorating martyrs and is also appropriate for festivals of renewal in the Spirit like church dedications and ordinations though we don't want any of that charismatic sort of stuff happening in our cathedral thank you very much indeed oh no and red is also used for the Passion of Our Lord from Palm Sunday to the Wednesday of Holy Week suggesting deeper intensity and triumph and victory and here in the Church of England we also put it out from All Saints to Advent Sunday.
Purple has been the royal colour throughout history as it was the most expensive to produce with primitive dye though these days a little tub of dye can be bought from any hardware shop and produces a very nice shade after a couple of sessions and it is the colour used for the seasons of Advent and Lent when we are exhorted to prepare ourselves for the arrival of the Kingdom through acts of penitence and self-discipline though some people can take these too far oh dear me yes and we also use it for funerals.
Blue is a favourite colour here in Wenchoster since its use comes from the Sarum Missal and it represents hope and anticipation and is associated with festivals of Mary the Mother of Our Lord and it looks lovely in the chancel and I like it very much indeed.
Black is the colour of mourning and reminds us of death and ashes and we only use it on Good Friday if we use anything at all because all the covers and hangings have been removed after the Maundy Thursday Watch but just occasionally the Dean wants to wear something for one of the services and so this is the colour we find for him and only once have we ever used it as an an alternative for Ash Wednesday and I didn't think it looked very good and told him so oh yes.
Rose Pink is used as an alternative for the 4th Sunday in Lent which in the Church of England is Mothering Sunday otherwise known as Laetare Sunday) and for the 3rd Sunday in Advent which to give it its proper title is Gaudete Sunday and Mrs. Grindle always says how nice the clergy look in pink and how she wants to give them all a great big hug.
Gold is associated with riches and kingly attire and is reserved for Easter Day the greatest of festivals although I often have to remind the Bishop how difficult it is to get chocolate marks off the gold thread and would he be more careful please when he eats his egg as part of his sermon thank you.
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