Monday, May 28, 2007

The Holy Spirit is Green!

NLM has a piece on the use of the colour green in the Orthodox Church as a sign of the Holy Spirit and of Pentecost. I had always delighted in the Holy Spirit in the Rublev Trinity, being clothed in green, I had assumed it to be an insight peculiar to him.
The pictures show Pentecost in an Orthodox Church.
Courtesy of, here is an explanation of the difference:
"Since Pentecost was originally a feast of harvest, as was mentioned above, the Jews used to decorate their homes with the fruits of the harvest—flowers, green foliage, garlands etc.—in order to add more pomp and solemnity to their celebrations. This same custom was also adopted by the Christians. To them, however, the green branches and flowers took on a symbolical meaning—the divine life and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

There is the rather sad story of Pope Paul VI going to the sacristy to say Mass on the Monday after Pentecost, and seeing green vestments, he asked why the red vestments for the Mass of the Octave of Pentecost were not there. He was told, "But Holy Father, you signed a document abolishing it." Apparently he burst into tears. It does seem a shame we don't have an Octave now, The feast of the Holy Trinity seems to stand alone, a bit like a liturgical after thought, whereas in the past it was the Octave feast of Pentecost and the end of the cycle that began with Ash Wednesday.


Londiniensis said...

In Roman Catholic Poland, Pentecost is popularly known as Zielone Świątki - the Green Holidays - harking back to pre-Christian traditions associated with farming and the coming of summer. Garlands of linden, birch, willow or beech are much in evidence. One charming old custom, now fallen into disuse, was for a suitor to propose by making an arch of fresh birch branches and placing it against the house of his sweetheart on the eve of Pentecost Sunday.

The liturgical colour is red, though.

Anonymous said...

There is a similar ancient custom in Russia to scatter freshly cut grass on the floor in churches and homes. It is still used somewhere.

Anonymous said...

here is some encouragement to say votive masses of the Holy spirit on Monday and Tuesday in the Westminster Diocesan Calendar. I too mourn the old octave. It was some consolation to have a Whit Monday Bank Holiday though!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Flowers and herbs were normally strewn on the floors of churches for great feasts, Corpus Christi flower carpets are the remnant.

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