Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Red and White

I engaged the Reverend Robert Hart in a recent post on The Continuum on our Lord's colour. He had asserted that it was white in that all of the great feasts of Our Lord, Christmas, Annuciation, Easter and Transfiguration are celebrated in white vestments. While that is true, the Bible from one end to the other mysticly describes our Lord's colour as being red. Let me give an example from Genesis 49: 10-11. "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of his people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes."

This prophetic verse is reflected in the lesson from Isaiah used for the epistle in Monday of Holy Week. "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have treaden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me; for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment." Isaiah lxiii. 1.

In The Revelation of John we find the following passage describing our Lord: "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name writen, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and his name is called the Word of God." Rev. xix. 11-13.

From these passages it would seem that Holy Scripture makes red our Lord's colour. At the same time Revelation tells us that the four and twenty elders round the throne in heaven were "clothed in white raiment" just as the armies which followed the Lord on white horses, were "cloth in fine linen, white and clean."

I run through all of this because in the use of Sarum which was the last legal use in England before the first prayer book, red and white were the usual colours for the vesture of the altar and the ministers on Sundays. Red was used for the Sundays after Epiphany and Trinity with a darker red being used from Passion Sunday until Easter with the exception of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. White was used from Easter until the octave of Trinity with the exception of the feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross while a toned white was also used for the first four weeks of Lent. In short, the greater part of the Christian year was in one of these two colours leaving only Advent and the 'Gesima weeks to be keep in another colour.

On the other hand, the two most frequent uses of green in the Old Testament are in conjunction with the burning of incense unto idols under the green trees and to the use of harlots under the same. If you think not, use the Gateway Bible Concordance and search "green."

The point of all this is that prayer book usage was intended to be that of Sarum, the only English Rite and Use which had reached international status and which preceded that of the Missal of Pius V by a fair number of years. Unfortunately for prayer book churchmen in the nineteenth century, the reaction to extreme disobedience of the rubrics of the English Book of Common Prayer by Evangelicals and the low church party in general was the copying of what the Roman Church did on the continent under the belief that if communion with the Roman See had not been broken, this is what Catholic churchmen would be doing in England and in all places where Anglicanism had spread. The irony regarding this position is that the use of Sarum has a great attraction for certain Romans to this day. You will find that especially upon those attracted to what they call The New Liturgical Movement which devoutly prays for a restoration of the Tridentine mass in Latin. This would mean that those who attended these services would probably not understand more than a few words of what the priest and other ministers said exactly as had been the case for hundreds of years.

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