Lent has begun and we shall try to embrace simplicity in our daily lives. Likewise we clinch minimalism in our worship spaces as we strip them to the humblest of symbols such as this hand-woven purple cloth. The unassuming cloths and symbols in our worship spaces are a visual way of fasting before the joyous feasting of the Easter celebration. Traditionally the church uses the color purple during this season to represent penitence, and solemnity. Yet the color purple also associates with the dignity of royalty and reminds us of the hope of Christ the King who we will honor and celebrate in the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The following is an interesting bit of information regarding purple. It is from “A Noble Color” by Christina Garton (Weaving Today, 9.28.11.) The author shares: Many of us have heard the term “royal purple” but do you know the lineage of this noble dye? True royal purple, also known as Tyrian purple, was first discovered by the Minoans of Ancient Crete. However, it was in Phoenicia—whose name translates as purple—that the dye became famous.
In much of ancient Europe, purple dyes were rare, hard to make, and expensive, so only the rich and powerful could afford them. Wearing the color purple was an advertisement of social status and Roman laws restricted its use. Only the emperor and statues of the gods could wear trabea, togas dyed entirely in purple. In Byzantium, the color was similarly limited to the imperial family.
This highly coveted dye comes from a not-so-lofty source: the mucus secretions of predatory sea snails. It takes thousands of snails to dye even a small piece of cloth. Fortunately for us, there are cheaper—and easier to collect—natural and synthetic purple dyes, making the color of kings available to everyone.
By using color and simple symbols in worship may we journey through Lent in a way that we can be prepared to celebrate joyfully the mysteries of our salvation.
A special note: Thanks to Rev. Dawn Carlson for sharing her weaving and the Noble Color article! We appreciate clients like Rev. Dawn who enthusiastically embrace including the visual in worship and are so eager to share what they do with us. This helps our little, quiet studio feel warm and unclouded all throughout the year.