Monday, March 25, 2013

Red & Scarlet are Different Just Like Pentecost & Passion Sunday are Different

The lighting makes this look pinkish but it's actually scarlet, made for Holy Week.
Every year, no matter how long I am at a church I have the same argument with the Altar Guild.  No we are NOT going to use the red paraments on Passion Sunday.  "But Pastor,  it's RED on the calendar!"

The Augsborg Fortress Calendar is the bible when it comes to church Altar Guilds.  The little strip is red so we must put up the Holy Spirit paraments for Passion Sunday. 

"No," I say in a voice I imagine is kind and patient.  "It's scarlet.  That is a different color.  We don't have scarlett and the red we have is not appropriate for Passion Sunday.  So we will continue to use the purple"
"Are you sure, Pastor?" 
"Yes, I am sure"
"But we always use the red"
"Not while I've been here"
"But the other pastors..."
"The other pastors either don't know better or don't care.  I know and I care"

Scarlet Chasuble
Yes I care.  I think symbolism and colors and vestments have value and meaning and I don't think we should make up our own rules. That's kind of why I am a Lutheran among other reasons. I think pastors should care and should explain to the people why they should care.  If you think they don't care, why is that silly AF calendar so important to them?  They care.  And you should respect that enough to help them understand why they care.

This is what happens when pastors ignore tradition and do whatever the hell they want.  The lay people stop paying attention to you because every new pastor just does whatever the hell they want. It no longer becomes about tradition and symbol and ritual that touches the deep parts of us that words cannot.  It becomes all about whatever the pastor thinks and wants.  And that doesn't really touch anyone.


  1. Distinguishing red from scarlet is important symbolically. And yet, I admit with shame, I only own one set of vestments which does double duty for both colors. I really need to fix that, next time I have an enormous wad of cash lying around.

    Incidentally, people run into the same problem with purple and violet; although I was taught to use the words interchangeably, they are different in ways that matter to liturgical symbolism. This guy has a handy description:

  2. As someone who has made stoles, I'm interested in this general topic. Why can't AF just put an asterisk on the sheet with the colors? Oh, I suppose it is the same reason that the hymnal has a tiny font, kinda slipped down close to the binding, where it says "to refrain ." They just couldn't spare the ink to make it user friendly.

  3. On the one hand, it might make it clearer to say that one is the red of blood, and the other is the red of fire ... except that we don't then use scarlet for martyrs. I see the UCC make the distinction between life-blood and shed blood, but that still seems artificial, given that martyrdom involves (at least in principle) shed blood, even if it is the "lifeblood of the church."

  4. we have scarlet now, as well as red. and now Maundy Thursday is still scarlet, when it used to be white (at least I'm pretty sure Maundy Thursday was white...)