You will recall that the atmosphere surround the Lenten décor was rather barren and stark. Clear glass vessels containing sand, rocks and sticks could be found displayed in the Narthex (also known as the gathering area), on tables between the pew sections in the Nave (main worship area of the church), and in front of the Ambo (where the word of God is read by the presider), and podium. The Lenten season is one of repentance and conversion, anticipating the Passion and death of Our Lord. The color of the season is reddish-purple to remind us of the blood Jesus shed for us. A tone of solemn austerity is desired as we reflect on our own spiritual life. The Glass vessels are intended to symbolize each one of us, transparent to God, yet filled with parts of the Earth he created that are no longer as alive as they once were, and anticipate the transition as we proceed through the season. There is an obvious lack of other colors, flowers and plants (living things) during this time.
On Palm Sunday the color of celebration is red. Sticks in the glass vessels were replaced by palms, and palms were also prominently displayed in the Sanctuary near the Tabernacle, a visible reminder of the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem. The Triduum follows which is the shortest season of the church year and marks the transition from Lent to the Easter season. Each day requires a change in the decorations.
Holy Thursday’s color is white and Mass is celebrated in the evening. The vessels will be filled with water at this point. We are ready to be cleansed, as the Church recalls the institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the priesthood, and the washing of the feet symbolizing the service that is required of all of the disciples of Jesus. At the end of Mass, the Ciborium is carried by the priest to the cry room which has been decorated to hold the Precious Body of our Lord during the night’s vigil, and the Sacristy is symbolically stripped in preparation for Good Friday.
On Good Friday, it is not Mass that is celebrated, but the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, veneration of the cross, special prayers, and a communion service. Symbols of His Passion will be found including the color red and the Crown of thorns displayed for all to see. The vessels will be contain red liquid to symbolize the blood he spilt for us and how His Blood and death are a part of who we are as Christians and Catholics.
Holy Saturday is the final day of preparation for Easter which is the holiest of times in our church year. The evening mass, the Easter vigil, starts with a ceremony in which the new Paschal candle is lit, blessed, and the light is shared throughout the congregation through the use of small individual candles. Baptism of those newly indoctrinated into the Church happens at this Mass. The décor for the Easter season will also be in place. Again those glass vessels will transform as we ourselves do. They will contain color, flowers and light as we ourselves share the light of the newly risen Lord and the beauty and life it symbolizes. Look for color, variety, beauty, brightness, words of celebration, etc.
This is just an example of how what we do brings the Liturgy to life, hopefully to deepen the meaning for all of us.