The Church Year And Its Colours
As we move into Advent and the start of a new year in the church calendar, Dave Reynolds, Sacristan St Dunstan's, writes:
The church’s year is divided into seasons, each of which has a specific colour:
Advent – purple;
Christmas and Epiphany – white (with gold on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Epiphany);
Ordinary Time – green;
Lent and Passiontide – purple or Lenten Array (unbleached linen);
Holy Week – red;
Easter – white (with gold on Easter Day);
Pentecost – red;
Trinity or Ordinary Time – green (with gold on Trinity Sunday);
Kingdom Season – red (with gold on All Saints Sunday).
PURPLE AND LENTEN ARRAY
Purple represents a time of reflection during Advent, looking forward to the Coming of Christ to earth at Christmas.
Purple also represents a time of reflection during Lent and Passiontide. This is the time leading up to the momentous events of Holy Week. During Passiontide, altar crosses and statues may be covered with purple shrouds.
Purple is usually used for funerals and on All Souls’ Day, when we remember those known to us who have died. (Black can also be worn on these occasions).
At St Dunstan's, we use the Lenten Array up to the fifth Sunday of Lent. The Lenten Array is made of unbleached linen, and is dull beige in appearance. Its simple, pared back appearance represents penitence – a central theme of Lent.
Gold represents times of great celebration. It is used on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus; Epiphany, when we celebrate the arrival of the three magi in Bethlehem; Easter Day, when we celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection; Trinity Sunday, when we celebrate the Holy Trinity (God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and on All Saints’ Day, when we remember the great cloud of Christian witnesses who have gone before us. These are amongst the most important days in the church’s year.
This represents purity, sanctity, and continuing celebration. It covers the period from Christmas Day to Candlemass (The Presentation of Christ in the Temple – 2nd February), including the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany. During this time, we remember the wonder of the incarnation - that God became human in the person of Jesus.
White also covers the period from Easter Day until the day before Pentecost, marking our continuing celebration of the Resurrection.
It is used for the celebration of Saints who were not martyred as well as for baptisms and marriages.
Green represents rebirth and growth. It covers a short period between Candlemass and Ash Wednesday, and the twenty weeks and more between Trinity Sunday to All Saints Day. It is the colour most often to be found in our churches.
Red reflects the traumas of Holy Week, when Jesus is arrested and put on trial. His blood is shed during the scourging and the crucifixion.
Red is the colour relating to The Holy Spirit and is used at the Feast of Pentecost, when the disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit which equipped them to spread Jesus’ message.
Red is also used for the Kingdom season which runs from All Saints Day until the day before Advent Sunday. This is a time of remembering, and includes Remembrance Sunday.
In addition, red is used for the commemoration of Saints who were martyred.