This week I had the delightful opportunity of visiting a local retirement community to speak about how color and symbols apply to the seasons of the liturgical church year. We looked at symbols in stoles and worship banners that had specific meaning; like the Alpha and Omega. Symbols like this require previous knowledge or education to understand. Other symbols seem obvious but can have different meaning to different people. We discussed the example of fire. Knowing that we were focusing on worship some of the participants immediately chimed in that fire was a symbol for Pentecost, but upon reflection we also came up with destruction (like the terrible fires currently raging in California), joy (like the flame of a birthday candle, and warmth (like a lit fireplace on a cold winter’s night).
There are also times when symbols rely upon the interpretation of the viewer. We looked at one of Carrot Top Studio’s stoles for Lent that is just an arrangement of purples. The somberness, depth of color and the arrangement allowed us to reflect upon feelings and emotions that we move through during the penitential time of Lent. These women, in their wiser years of their lives, were in agreement that congregations and those in leadership could do more to educate about the visual components of our faith. Human insight, both spiritual and visual, can be expanded and be a significant step in our journey toward a deeper relationship with God.