Thursday, December 8, 2011

Does it matter?

Does it matter that in my parish, the vestments and banners are so bluish purple during the season of Advent that most people think the color is navy blue?

The pastor says that he chose the more blue-purple to reflect the darkness of the wintery season, to more align the season of Advent to what we see in nature. On the other hand, the hoi poloi seem to think the color is blue to reflect the Marian nature of the advent season (I kid you not).  While this may seem like a matter of opinion, let's suppose for a moment that there is more to the symbolism than meets the eye.

The official, Vatican decreed color of the Advent season is violet. Granted, the hue values of violet vary greatly, depending on the "eye of the beholder" but suffice it to point out that when one thinks of violet, this is usually the color:                 or  maybe even              .  Not only does this color symbolize the penitential nature of the season of Advent, it also reflects the light we see in the sky, just before dawn.  In remembering John the Baptist's words, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30), and that Christ is the Light of the world, we can see how, maybe violet rather than dark purple or navy bluish purple may be a better choice.  Think of the dawn again...what colors are there?  Dark midnight blue, cobalt blue, violet.  That which is closer to the horizon is the color violet, right?  So if Christ is the dawning and his Light is what flashes when He is born, like the sun at sunrise, that time just before His birth, Advent, would be best symbolized through color as violet, the color closest to the horizon, the color closest to the light of dawn.

Think about the seasons...what happens from summer to winter?  The days get shorter and nights longer....less and less light.  What happens after the winter solstice (which, not so coincidentally happens just about the same time as we celebrate the Nativity)?  That's right.  The days get longer.  The light increases.  "He increases but I must decrease."  The Church has used nature, the changing of days to explain this concept. If December 25th is after the shortest day of the year, it would stand to reason, then that the light is increasing at this point.  It is not at it's darkest.  If we use dark-purplish-blue or navy blue, how are we conveying this concept of increasing light, of Christ increasing?

What does the change in light have to do with the Blessed Virgin Mary?

Furthermore, the US Catholic Conference of Bishops have declared that blue is illicit for liturgical use.

So, does it matter that in my parish, the vestments and banners are so bluish purple during the season of Advent that most people think the color is navy blue?  It absolutely does.  For one, it seems as though, by those in the know, who understand liturgically the difference between violet and dark, brooding purple, that the parish is snubbing the authority of the bishop.  Secondly, by not using a truer violet we are missing out on an opportunity to go deeper into the fullness of our liturgical faith, to catechize, to grow closer to Christ in one more way.

I may not be able to change any minds in this diocese but, I can properly educate my boys, in the hope that one day they will become liturgically astute priests and change the current culture, brick by violet brick.

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