Lent is a penitential season, and the solemnity of this period is reflected in the colors and ornamentation that adorn the church from Ash Wednesday through Good Friday.
Purple, the color of penitence and sorrow, is the color of the Lenten season. In the hall leading to the Meditation Chapel there are six purple veils (one for each week in Lent) hanging from the ceiling to the floor in a staggered configuration. These veils form a linear maze, which causes one to slow down and walk solemnly and prayerfully to the chapel.
Greens are placed on the retable during Lent instead of the customary flowers.
Crosses are veiled in purple as a sign of mourning, and they remain in place (changing to black on Good Friday) until the Great Vigil.
Palm Sunday, the 6th Sunday in Lent, is the start of Holy Week. Red, for Christ's passion, is the color of the vestments on Palm Sunday.
In past years, Saint James Church has used white vestments on Maundy Thursday, following old tradition of celebrating a festal Eucharist. Beginning in 2007, we will join most of the other Episcopal churches in using red vestments for Maundy Thursday. At the end of the service, the altar is stripped and all ornaments are removed from the sanctuary, leaving it unadorned for the Good Friday liturgy.
The color for Good Friday is black. Commemorating our Lord's crucifixion and death, it is the day of deepest mourning in the church year.
The Easter Vigil service on the eve of Easter begins in the dark. Candles are slowly added and when the lights come on the church is seen to be filled with beautiful flowers and music and the color on the altar is white or gold, commemorating the resurrection of Christ. He is risen - Alleluia.