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Liturgical colours

A brief guide to liturgical colours in the Scottish Episcopal Church

The church has defined a set of colours to be used within the context of Christian liturgy. They have been chosen to offer a symbolism appropriate to a season of the church year or to indicate a special occasion.

These colours may be used for vestments (tunicle, dalmatic and chasuble, copes, stoles, maniples and mitres), altar frontals, hangings, altar sets (burse, veil and pall), lectern bookmarks, socks and hair colour, etc.

The liturgical colours used within the Scottish Episcopal Church are white or gold, red, green, violet, Lenten array, rose and black; there is also a direction for no liturgical colour (hangings removed) during the final days of Holy Week.


Calendar 2021–2022

Download and print this handy liturgical colours calendar PDF for 2021-2022.

Liturgical colours calendar 2021-2022

Download PDF calendar 2021–2022


White or gold

Symbolism: celebration, exuberance, glory, innocence, joy, light, purity, resurrection, victory

white

White contains all the colours of the rainbow and is worn on major festivals. Vestments may be white, ivory, cream or silver, gold or yellow.

As a colour for funerals, particularly of children and clergy, white points to the hope of Easter.

When to use:


Red

Symbolism: suffering of the Lord, Holy Spirit, commemoration of the apostles and martyrs

red

Red is the colour of fire and blood. Fire symbolises the Holy Spirit which came as tongues of fire at Pentecost (Acts 2). Representing blood, red symbolises Jesus's suffering during Holy Week, as well as the martyrs of the church.

When to use:


Green

Symbolism: everlasting life, fidelity, hope, nature, neutrality

green

Green is worn during what many parts of the Church refers to as 'ordinary time'. The colour of nature, green symbolises life and growth through each new day.

When to use:


Violet

Symbolism: mourning, penance, preparation, repentance, sacrifice, sorrow

violet

In the Scottish Episcopal Church a distinction is made between violet (liturgical colour) and purple (worn by bishops).

Violet is a penetential colour that represents the eschatological expectation of Advent as well as the preparation for the paschal mystery during Lent.

As a colour for funerals, violet references the hope of both Advent and Lent.

While blue is not specified in the Scottish Episcopal Church calendar, some churches may follow the Sarum rite which substitutes blue for violet during Advent.

When to use:


Lenten array

Symbolism: mourning, penance, repentance, and sorrow.

lenten array is unbleached ecru and scarlet

During Lent, an alternative to violet is Lenten array from the English Sarum rite.

The Sarum rite was developed at Salisbury Cathedral (Old Sarum) and used from the late 11th to the mid-16th century. Violet cloth would have been expensive to dye. So, the Sarum tradition used unbleached linen with crimson orphreys (ornamental stripes). This was sometimes referred to as 'Lenten white' or ash.

Symbolically, unbleached linen offers an absence of colour during Lent. Lenten Array also includes the veiling of the altar and reredos, statues, icons and crosses.

When to use:


Rose

Symbolism: anticipation, subdued joy

rose

Throughout both Advent and Lent, all Sundays are festivals. Both seasons include one Sunday where the solemnity of the penetential season is lightened to one of subdued joy. This may be represented symbolically by replacing the liturgical colour of violet with rose (not pink).

During Advent, if an Advent wreath and candles are used, the third candle may be rose.

When to use:


Hangings removed

Symbolism: absence, mourning, penance, repentance and sorrow.

rose

There is no liturgical colour suggested for Good Friday (except red at holy communion) and Holy Saturday (the day between Good Friday and Easter Day). Instead, the direction 'hangings removed' is given in the lectionary and calendar.

Following the Eucharist of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, the altar is stripped and all decorations are removed from the sanctuary, nave and any side chapel (apart from the altar of repose). The church building remains bare until the Easter Vigil, symbolising the stripping of Jesus before his crucifixion, death and lying in the tomb.

When to use:


Black

Symbolism: death, grief, mourning

black

Black has traditionally been the colour of mourning and grief.

When to use: