Monday, June 01, 2009

Green Time



photo from here

Paschal Time is over, we are back to "Ordinary Time". So why does the Church choose the colour green for this season?

It is perhaps easy to think that the Church arrived at the choice of the colour green for what we now call, "Ordinary Time" by pure accident but a non-fugitive green dye for vestments before the industrial revolution was problematic, white, brown, russet, yellow, even indigo blue are easier to achieve. In England green cloth was produced by the dyers of Lincoln, a great cloth town in the high Middle Ages, by dyeing it with woad, Isatis tinctoria to give it a strong blue, then overdyeing it yellow with weld, Reseda luteola or dyers' broom, Genista tinctoria.

In the Oriental Rites green, not red, is the colour that signifies the Holy Spirit, it is the preferred option for Pentecost vestments. The Angel in the Rublev Old Testament Trinity that represents the Holy Spirit is clothed in green. It is worth remembering that Pentecost was originally the festival wheat harvest. In most Oriental Churches churches are decked with greenery at Pentecost.

In the old calendar "Ordinary Time" was "time after Pentecost", a better term. The deliberate choice of green vestments symbolised a time of fecundity for the Church, a time when the Paschal Mystery is accomplished, when the Church is living in the time of the Spirit. Lent, Advent and Eastertide are times when the Church re-orientates itself fixing its attention the Mysteries of the Lord; "Ordinary Time" or better "Time after Pentecost" is when the Church looks out to the world, fulfilling its mission.

It is therefore a sign the Kingdom of God, all those references to growing shoots, trees, vines in the Gospels, to its quiet unnoticed growth, it is also the sign of fucundity and and of life.


footnote:
Bishop's wear Amethysts because the word a- "not" and methustos- "drunk" because they are the successors of the Apostles of whom it was said on the day of Pentecost.

For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day: Acts 2:15


6 comments:

johnf said...

When I was a child, Father, I was told that Green was the colour of hope. And I daresay that corresponds with fecundity and new life.

It was only when I was writing a javascript to calculate the various liturgical events in the parish website that I was made aware that the numbering of ordinary time starts after Epiphany, marks time until Lent and Easter are over and continues up til Advent. But because its been decreed that the last Sunday before Advent is the 34th in Ordinary time, there are usually some numbers missing.

I do like the idea of amethyst - not drunk. What a rich many layered tapestry is the Church!

Thomasso said...

Of course, Paschal Time is only at an end in the Usus Recentior. In the Usus Antiquior it is still Paschal Time, since we are in the Octave of Pentecost.

I read that Pope Paul wept bitterly on the Monday after Pentecost in the first year of the new calendar. Seemingly preparing for Mass that morning, he asked why green vestments were laid out, rather than red for the Octave. On being told that it was because he had abolished the Octave, the Holy Father is said to have wept. How true it is, who knows, but it could be a typical reaction from that gentle Pontiff.

Pentecost is surely deserving of the re-introduction of its Octave across the Roman Rite.

PeterHWright said...

I would agree with Thomasso.

The abolition of the ancient Octaves by Pius XII in 1955 was bad enough.

The abolition of the Octave of Pentecost by Paul VI was, in my opinion, going too far.

Well, at least we still have the Octave of Pentecost and the Sundays after Pentecost (much more meaningful than the Sundays of the Year) in the old Missal.

Here is yet another area where the old can enrich the new.

Richard said...

"For these are not drunk, seeing it is but the third hour of the day"

Never stopped me.

gemoftheocean said...

I never knew how the word amethyst came about either. I meant to say earlier how much I enjoyed this post.

Arvid Nybroten said...

Ironically Pentecost Monday is still a national holiday and a day of obligation in some European countries, but it is now only a day in Ordinary Time. The Octave of Pentecost should not have been abolished, neither should the full cycle of readings for the Vigil Mass. In the Lutheran Church where in which I was raised,they follow the Hallmark Ordo, i.e., Mothers' Day and Memorial Day take precidence over Pentecost Sunday. E.g.,if the following day is Memorial Day they say the Pledge of Alligence instead of the Creed. Second highest feast in the Church year. At least that cannot happen in a Catholic or Orthodox church. Pneumatology is the weakest element in Western Christian piety and theology. After Vatican II the liturgy should have placed more emphasis on the Holy Spirit and not less.