liturgy

Colors of the Church Year

If you've spent much time with a child at Savior, you've probably heard them sing their song about the colors of the church year (and if you haven't heard it, you should ask one of them to sing it for you!):

Purple says: get ready, for the feast is near.
White says: rejoice, the feast is here.
Green is for the growing time the rest of the year;
Red is for Pentecost, Holy Spirit Day.

This song helps orient children to the rhythms of the liturgical year, in which fasts (Advent and Lent) are followed by feasts (Christmas and Easter), and much of the year is neither feast nor fast, but instead Ordinary Time. (The term "Ordinary Time" comes from the way it's counted in ordinal numbers — the first Sunday after Pentecost, the fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, etc. But it's also ordinary in the other sense as we go about our ordinary work.)

We mark each new season in the church year by changing the color of the altar cloth, banners, vestments worn by clergy, even the tablecloths on the Welcome and Info tables. Although there is some variation, most liturgical churches use a somber purple during Advent and Lent. Feasts are marked by white or gold, colors that remind us of the glory and splendor of God. Red is the color for Pentecost, bringing to mind the tongues of fire that danced on the heads of the disciples when then Holy Spirit came upon them. And Ordinary Time is green, symbolizing a time of work and growth in the power of the Spirit.

Why use liturgical colors?

We use symbols to mark all sorts of seasons and holidays: the pots of mums that indicate the coming of fall; the red and green decorations that presage Christmas; the banners and balloons in a yard that point to some special event. Likewise, the changing colors point us to shifts in the church year. Especially for those of us new to the rhythms of the liturgical calendar, a new color reminds us of a shift as we cycle through fasting, feasting and growing.

Also, liturgical worship seeks to engage all of our senses: our ears and minds as we hear and learn, and also our bodies as we touch and taste the bread and wine, make the sign of the cross on our bodies, stand for the Gospel and kneel for the confession of sin. Liturgical colors engage our eyes, giving us visual cues to the story told in the church calendar of longing for Christ, celebrating Christ, and growing in the body of Christ.

Liturgical colors beyond the sanctuary

As we orient our lives towards the gospel, the cycle of the liturgical year helps us to focus on different parts of God's story. If you find the liturgical colors helpful in pointing you towards the presence of God in our lives, you might consider incorporating the colors into your home. A colored candle is a simple way to mark the season; if you have a prayer corner or prayer table, you might incorporate the seasonal color.

And perhaps you can also learn the children's song, immersing yourself along with them in the rhythms of the church year and the great story of God's love for us.


Sarah Lindsay currently serves as the Director of Communications and Coordinator of Children’s Ministry at Savior. Sarah has a background in teaching (English literature and writing) and she enjoys reading and writing. She has been an Anglican since she discovered liturgical worship in college; she and her family joined Savior in 2017.

Sarah Lindsay currently serves as the Director of Communications and Coordinator of Children’s Ministry at Savior. Sarah has a background in teaching (English literature and writing) and she enjoys reading and writing. She has been an Anglican since she discovered liturgical worship in college; she and her family joined Savior in 2017.

 
 

Celebrating Eastertide

In the liturgical year of the church, we have entered the season of Eastertide. We spent weeks walking through the repentance and fasting of Lent, and then we experienced the pain and darkness of Holy Week as we commemorated Jesus' last supper with his disciples, agony in the garden, betrayal at the hands of a friend, and his suffering and death. We then spent a long Saturday watching for resurrection.

And then, on Easter, we celebrated new life, resurrection life. We rang bells and shouted joyful "alleluias" during our Easter celebrations.

But the celebration of Easter doesn't end when the ham is stowed back in the refrigerator and the chocolate smears have been wiped off the tiny mouths. The celebration of Easter continues for a whole 50 days: the 40 days of Lenten fasting, plus another 10; a week of weeks spent rejoicing in the risen Christ.

Most of us are used to celebrations that last a single day: Birthdays. Anniversaries. The Fourth of July. We celebrate for a day, then return to our normal life.

But the rhythm of the liturgical year asks us to extend our celebration beyond a single day. If our preparation for Easter lasts for 40 days, why shouldn't our celebration last just as long? Easter is the high point of the Christian year; the beautiful reality of the resurrection certainly deserves more than a single day of celebration.

In a society that constantly moves on to the next thing, spending 50 days in celebration can feel just as counter-cultural — perhaps even more so — as spending 40 days in fasting and repentance. What might it even look like to spend seven weeks celebrating Easter?

In our weekly worship, you'll notice some special reminders that we are in a celebratory season:

  • The white and gold banners behind the altar, the gold stoles worn by the priests and deacons, and the white albs worn by the prayer and communion ministers all symbolize celebration and resurrection. In Children's Worship, our children sing about the colors of the church year: "White says rejoice! The feast is here."

  • The Paschal candle — the tall white candle with the cross — was kindled with new fire during the Easter Vigil and will burn during all of our Eastertide services.

  • At the beginning of worship, we exchange the Easter greeting. The celebrant says, "Alleluia! Christ is risen!" and the congregation responds, "The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!"

  • Along with this greeting, our "alleluias" have returned throughout the liturgy, before the gospel, in the Great Thanksgiving, and in the dismissal.

  • The children continue to dance with streamers, a reminder for them and for the congregation that we are continuing to celebrate Easter.

At home, you might also incorporate some of these practices:

  • Use white or gold seasonal decorations — even a simple tablecloth or runner can be a good reminder of this season of Eastertide.

  • If you have a Paschal candle, or a white candle, burn it during meals or devotions.

  • Eastertide is a celebration, a feast, in contrast to the fasting of Lent. Find ways to "feast": share a meal with friends and exchange the Easter greeting, take time to relax and enjoy nature, buy discount Easter candy to last through the season!

We often assume that discipline applies to hard things — after all, who needs to be disciplined in order to celebrate Christmas or a birthday? But Eastertide asks us to be disciplined in our celebration of Christ's resurrection. As we see from Jesus' disciples, who went back to fishing after they encountered the risen Christ, it can be all too easy to forget that the resurrection should impact our daily lives.

Just as Lent reminded us that we need a savior, Eastertide reminds us that we serve the risen Christ. And so let us light our candles and ring our bells for the 50 days of Easter in celebration.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

For more ideas about how to celebrate Eastertide, see this post from our diocese, Churches for the Sake of Others.


Sarah Lindsay currently serves as the Director of Communications and Coordinator of Children’s Ministry at Savior. Sarah has a background in teaching (English literature and writing) and she enjoys reading and writing. She has been an Anglican since she discovered liturgical worship in college; she and her family joined Savior in 2017.

Sarah Lindsay currently serves as the Director of Communications and Coordinator of Children’s Ministry at Savior. Sarah has a background in teaching (English literature and writing) and she enjoys reading and writing. She has been an Anglican since she discovered liturgical worship in college; she and her family joined Savior in 2017.