Saturday, December 5, 2009

Advent: Purple or Blue?

by Stephen Crippen

In my quest to be named the Weirdest Dog Owner in the World (and that’s a hard get!), I have purchased dog collars for all the liturgical seasons. We have a variety of collars for summer and fall (green), Lent (purple), and high days/seasons (bright colors, since white is not a good color for dog collars). But Advent—that’s a problem.

In my home, the color of Advent is hotly disputed. Andrew: “It’s purple!” Stephen: “It’s blue!” Who’s right?

As much as I want to say I’m right, I know that reasonable people differ. For time out of mind, the color of Advent has been purple, in keeping with its identity—like that of Lent—as a penitential, solemn season. (Christmas and Easter are solemn too, but joyfully so.) In the ancient world, purple dye was highly expensive, so it was associated with wealth and royalty. A commoner like you or me simply couldn’t afford it. In Lent, this added layer of meaning—royalty—evoked Christ’s identity as the sovereign figure at the center of our salvation story. That Christ ironically was not an earthly king but a poor peasant only added to the significance of purple as a liturgical color. And since Christ is central in both the Incarnation Cycle (Advent/Christmas/Epiphany) and the Paschal Cycle (Lent/Easter/Pentecost), beginning both cycles with royal purple seems fitting.

But I like blue. Indigo, really. In recent decades, the use of deep, rich blue in Advent arose to differentiate Advent from Lent as a season of hope and expectation. Advent blue, at its best, reminds the eye of the deepest blue of the night sky just before dawn. As we await the dawning of Christmas, we drape ourselves and our altar in deep blue. Every Advent I like to sing the hymn, “As the Dark Awaits the Dawn,” by Susan Palo Cherwien. Here’s a stanza from her lovely text:

As the blue expectant hour
before the silvering skies,
we long to see your day arise,
whole and wise, whole and wise,
O lucent Morning Star.

So…how did we resolve the dog-collar dispute? Naturally, we met in the middle: since we have two dogs, we have two opportunities to clothe our beloved charges in the color(s) of Advent. May your Advent draw you ever closer to the dawning light of Christ.

Stephen is a therapist and postulant to the Diaconate. You can find his personal blog here.

1 comment:

Linera Lucas said...

The puppies look particularly spiritual, or is that the advent of supper?