Sunday, November 22, 2015
Liturgical Year and Colors
We occasionally see the term “Liturgical Year” in our bulletin. This week we are celebrating the Feast of Christ the King which is the last Sunday in our Liturgical Year. What exactly does Liturgical Year mean?
Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent and ending with the Feast of Christ the King the Church celebrates the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The year itself is broken down into three distinct periods.
The first of these periods is Advent and Christmas. We anticipate then celebrate God coming into human history. The second period is Lent and Easter where we enter into the events that lead up to Jesus’ death and then celebrate his resurrection and ascension into heaven. The final period we call “Ordinary” Time, but there’s nothing ordinary about it. The word “Ordinary” comes from the word “Ordinal,” which is how the weeks are numbered: first, second, third, etc.
Each of these seasons have a different feel to them and we can recognize the change of season by the different color vestments the clergy wear as well as the colors of our banners and altar decorations.
The use of colors to differentiate the liturgical seasons became a common practice about the fourth century. At first, usages varied considerably but by the 12th century Pope Innocent III approved the use of five colors: Violet, White, Black, Red and Green. Today, four colors are used to express the emotions and ideas that are associated with each of the seasons of the liturgical year.
Violet is the ancient royal color and therefore a symbol of the sovereignty of Christ. Violet is also associated with repentance from sin. We see that connection in its use during Advent and Lent as we acknowledge our sinfulness and prepare for the Lord and his resurrection.
White reminds us of the brightness of day and that Jesus is the Light of the World. We wear it during the Christmas and Easter seasons as well as for the great feasts of the year.
Red evokes the color of blood, and is the color of martyrs and Christ’s death on the cross. But it is also the color of fire and remembering the tongues of fire that hovered over the Apostles it is also the color of the Holy Spirit and feasts of the apostles.
And the rest of the year, when we’re counting out our Ordinal time? We wear green which represents living things and the promise of new life.
Every year we cycle through the life, death and resurrection of Christ and every year we are changed by that journey.