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Antependium, III

December 20, 2013

The altar of St. John’s in the Village, Baltimore, dressed for Advent.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. MAG permalink
    December 21, 2013 11:57

    In the interest of full disclosure, some of the authors of this blog take issue with the use of Blue as the Advent color, although we must commend the Altar Guild of St. John’s in the Village for their choice of a dark, violet-leaning blue that prominently features black, which is an ancient Advent color.

    • December 21, 2013 13:05

      On this charged subject, our friend Andrew Blume writes the following:

      “There is much disagreement about the proper liturgical colour for Advent. The Roman rite prescribes violet, as it does for Lent (although this year, Pope Benedict XVI, along with the deacon and subdeacon, were wearing blue vestments at the Solemn Pontifical Vespers of I Advent). The Anglican tradition, and that of other pre-reformation uses, is more varied. In the Sarum Rite the Advent colour was red, but it could very well have been the red-purple known as murray, understood to be a royal colour suitable for Our Lord, and one found in many English pre-reformation vestment inventories. At Litchfield in the 13th century, black (which is considered to include violet, indigo, and other dark shades of blue) was given for Advent and Lent, as it was at Westminster. Violet was the colour given at Exeter in the fourtheenth century. There is authority, then, for the use of red, murray, blue, and violet. We use blue vestments, lined in murray, in Advent. This allows us to visually distinguish Advent from Lent and acknowledges both of the major English colour traditions. The notion, however, of a colour called ‘Sarum blue’ for Advent, popular in some quarters, seems to be a twentieth-century fiction.”

      • MAG permalink
        December 22, 2013 12:55

        It is, indeed, as we say a “charged subject.”

        For a differing interpretation, read the following:

        The following excerpt is particularly apropos:

        “So every now and then, I’ll get into a conversation with someone who advocates using blue for Advent. I’ll ask them why they prefer this. When folks say that they like blue for purely aesthetic reasons, I have nothing further to add. If they say they like blue because they want to differentiate the season from Lent, I might disagree with their non-pentiential premise for the Advent season, but I can respect the reasoning of making Advent look different from Lent. Lord knows, Lent comes with some serious baggage.
        But when people say that, as proper Anglicans, they favor Sarum usage, so they must use blue, I object. Strongly.”

        Father Blume makes a compelling case in his description of the use of blue at St. Ignatius. One perplexing question that I have, however, is why — in a parish that does not use purple during Lent, either — is it necessary to “visually distinguish Advent from Lent?” If Lenten Array is the scheme of choice for Lent, and Blue used during Advent, when *does* purple appear?

  2. December 23, 2013 09:33

    Here’s the thing with purple, and on this subject I will quote Dearmer. It should be noted in advance that Dearmer was no fan of the so-called “Sarum use,” which he calls “really one-half made up from the fancy of nineteenth-century ritualists” (Parson’s Handbook, 74). So here is what he has to say about purple:

    “The ‘violet’ for Lent does not of course mean the unpleasant colour (so remote from the colour of the violet flower) at present provided by the shops. There is no such restriction as to tints, and dark blue or purple is equally suitable for Lent” (78).

    I am with Dearmer in his estimation of the various iterations of Sarum use, and I am agreed that what is used for Advent ought to be equally suited to use in Lent, if so desired. So I think here we may usefully take Dearmer’s point about restriction of tints.

    As with a great many things in our tradition, reasonable variation is acceptable and, in fact, delightful. Indigo, violet, and purple are all at the same end of the spectrum (approaching black), and I think we could find some agreement that, within this range, many shades are acceptable and meet, as well for Advent as for Lent.

    In the instance of St. John’s in Huntingdon Village, I think their indigo hangings, fringed with violet, are lovely and exactly suited to this season of penitence and expectation.

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