From the Altar Guild: The Symbolism of the Cope in the Advent Blue Set Week II
December 10, 2012 § 2 Comments
So now it’s the second week of Advent. I want to talk some about the next two symbols on our Advent cope but first I would like to discuss the color of the cope. You know it’s blue! For many of us the color of Advent is purple but here at St Luke’s the color of Advent is blue. I noticed last week that many had purple on at church on the First Sunday of Advent so I hope no one is disappointed by the lack of purple.
I have always been told that blue vestments in Advent was a Sarum Rite usage so I thought I would check some sources on the use of blue vestments in Advent. I thought it would be an easy task, a fact checking that would take a few minutes. I was wrong. I could find nothing that says blue was the color of Advent in the Sarum. I found lots of rants written by priests of Rome against the use of blue vestments as illegal that makes the Protestant in me so proud that we use blue in Advent. In The Parson’s Handbook written by Percy Dearmer in 1899 (he was rector of the Church of St. Mary, Primrose Hill, London and a great champion of the Anglo-Catholic movement) lists from an inventory of Salisbury Cathedral in 1222 that there were vestments made of “blue silk”. So even in the 13th century someone somewhere was wearing blue vestments.
What does the color blue mean for us? There is a color called royal blue and I would suggest that it is the color of our Advent vestments. As the name suggests, it is the color worn by royalty. The Church is not uncomfortable with indentifying Jesus as a royal person and the descendent of kings and queens, as you can see from the next two symbols on our cope:
December 19 – O RADIX JESSE
O Root of Jesse, which stands for an ensign of the people, at whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the Gentiles shall seek: Come and deliver us.
This antiphon is represented by the symbol of a flower, a stylized rose, and in our view we can see the roots which give the flower life. Jesse, King David’s father, is the root and stock of Jesus.
December 20 – O CLAVIS DAVID
O Key of David and Scepter of the house of Israel: that opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens: Come and bring the prisoner out of the prison house and him that sits in darkness, and in the shadow of death.
The second symbol is a key. Keys open locked doors and allow entry into places that have been locked, as Jesus is the way to the Father.
By the way, one of the secrets of the St. Luke’s sacristy is that we do have a low Mass set of vestments for Advent which is most defiantly purple but we keep it tucked away for another generation…for the 18 years I’ve been at St. Luke’s this set has been suppressed, as we say in Altar-Guild-speak. (A low Mass set for us is a chasuble, burse, veil and two stoles, a high mass set is a chasuble, dalmatic for the deacon, a tunicle for the sub-deacon, one or two copes, a burse, veil and two stoles.)
There are eight symbols, so we’re half-way through. Next week we’ll talk about two more of the cope’s symbols. Meanwhile, keep your eye pealed for the beauty and intricacy of this magnificent contribution to our communal spiritual life.
– Sean Scheller