As we come to the last week of Faith Answering Questions before the beginning of our next summer message series, we’re going to address two seemingly very different questions — first, why the God of the Old Testament seems so different from the God of the New Testament, and second, why the priests wear different colors during different times of the liturgical year and what each means. These questions, while different in their scope and focus, are equally important, rooted as they are in the deep focus on tradition in our Catholic faith. Scripture and Tradition form the basis of our faith practice, and indeed, both of these questions trace their roots back to one or both of those principles.
So, “why does the God of the New Testament feel so different from the God of the Old Testament? It seems a little jarring. Drowning Egyptians, burning cities seems inconsistent with Jesus.” And that’s true, looking at the seeming discrepancy in the way God interacts with his people before and after the teaching and ministry of Jesus. Before Jesus, God seems to punish his people quite frequently. The Israelites wander in the desert for 40 years, weathering droughts, famines, infighting, infidelity, and more. But when Jesus comes along, he completely shifts the rhetoric to one of love and forgiveness. It feels a bit like a 180!
The best explanation of this that I’ve found comes from an incredibly honest and human perspective. It paints God as one with us on our spiritual journeys, giving us more and more understanding as we learn to become much more just and merciful and kind in everything that we do. God was the benevolent, perfect, loving Creator all along, but we weren’t quite ready to understand that.
Our perspectives were limited until the ministry of Jesus enriched them, when we were more able to understand the actions of God. Similar to the way a child might feel wrongly judged when a parent punishes him or her for an action (until they grow to understand the rationale), so are we with God. As Jesus formed his ministry around love and forgiveness, we grew in understanding, and were able to see the actions of the God of the Old Testament in context.
As to why the priests wear different colors during the different liturgical seasons, that too dates back to long-standing religious tradition. Originally modeled on the clothes that were the ordinary attire of Roman farmers, all liturgical robes were white. Now, the white vestments signify purity, holiness, and righteousness — colors of Feast days and seasons like Christmas and Easter. Red vestments signify the Holy Spirit, fire, love, and saints who have died for the Christian faith.
Green vestments represent spring, new life, and hope—colors for Ordinary time. Purple vestments signify repentance and penance, worn during Advent and Lent and other times of repentance. Rose (pink) is the color of joy, and worn on special occasions during the year to signify the coming of a joyful holiday: the third Sunday of Advent, and the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Blue, black, silver, and gold robes might also be worn, but are much less common.
--Claire Kosewic, Parishioner
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