VIII: Liturgical Colors

Q: Why are the colors of the cloths on the altar and pulpit changed for different seasons and festivals?

A:  The use of varying colors to symbolize the different seasons and festivals of the Church year for vestments and other liturgical objects is first found in Church orders at Jerusalem in the 12th Century. In recent times, a standard use in the Western Church has been established. The modern liturgical colors are:

BLUE. This color is symbolic of hope and is the preferred color for Advent.

WHITE. Symbolic of victory, joy, and purity this color is used for the seasons of Christmas and Easter; for Epiphany; all feasts of our Lord; for Trinity Sunday; for All Saints’ Day; and for other feasts and festivals. Gold, the symbol of glory, is the preferred color for Easter.

BLACK. The ·symbol of humiliation and mourning, is prescribed for Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, or another day of penitence and mourning.

VIOLET. This color is symbolic both of penitence and royalty. It is used throughout Lent and is the alternate color for Advent. Rose may be used on the third Sunday of Advent, the fourth Sunday of Lent, and as an alternate for the feasts of Mary.

RED. This color symbolizes both blood and the fire of the Holy Spirit. It is used on Pentecost, Reformation Day, and other festivals throughout the year. Scarlet, a deeper shade of red, may be used throughout Holy Week.

GREEN. This is the so-called, neutral color. Symbolic of growth, it is used for the time after Pentecost and after the Epiphany.

Our hymnal, the Lutheran Service Book, provides a list of the Sundays, Feasts, and Festivals of the church year along with the prescribed color. This can be found in the beginning of the hymnal on pages x and xi. 

Adapted from About Being Lutheran © Lutheran Liturgical Renewal 1991. Used by permission.