Archive for June, 2011

What Colour Is Today?

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

There is a variety of rules governing what colour is appropriately worn on which day or during which season. One wears white shoes only between Memorial Day and Labor Day. One wears black to funerals. Brides where white, unless they are Chinese, in which case they wear red.

The Church has a long and complex tradition of which liturgical colours are worn on which day and during which season. White is worn on Easter Day and on the seven Sundays thereafter. Red is worn next on the Feast of Pentecost (the eighth Sunday after Easter); then it is back to white for Trinity Sunday (the Sunday after Pentecost).

Finally, we get to green — the proper liturgical colour for the long, long season of Sundays after Pentecost which the Roman Catholics call “Ordinary Time” suggesting that green is their ordinary colour. This Sunday was supposed to be green.

Alone in the sacristy, I slipped on my white stole, as I have put it on for so many Sundays since Holy Week ended. Ken, the deacon, was not there. Deacons wear their stoles in a crosswise manner, over one shoulder and fastened at the opposite hip. Ken is up at Camp Huston with the high school students attending the diocesan Six Day experience which culminates the year for diocesan youth events. Our usual ritual in the vestry is that the first one who puts on a stole says to the other “Purple?” and the other replies “Purple.” No Ken; no ritual.

I was ably assisted this morning by Eric, who subbed as a subdeacon but subdeacons do no wear stoles of any colour so that was no help at all. Eric was a lot of help, just not in this particular.

I walked down the main aisle singing the processional hymn when I noticed that the altar was vested (quite appropriately) in green. There was nothing to do. There was no chance to run back to the sacristy and fetch my green stole. I had committed a liturgical boo boo for all the world to see.

So I began to think up fanciful explanations which I could offer when I was eventually called out for my liturgical error.

“The first Sunday after Trinity is always green in the Mozarabic Rite.” I’m not sure what the Mozarabic Rite is but that sounded authoritative.

“Tomorrow is Helen Keller’s Birthday.” There seemed no connection between that commemoration and the wearing of white.

“Today is Madagascarian Independence Day” or “Today is Romanian Flag Day.” Same problem.

“In addition to being the Second Sunday after Pentecost, today is the feast day of Saint Anthelm of Belley (1107-1178), prior of the Carthusian Grande Chartreuse and Bishop of Belley. Pope Alexander III had sent Anthelm to reconcile Henry II of England and Thomas Becket.” But that had nothing to do with white stoles.

In the event, nobody noticed, so I didn’t have the opportunity to lie.