Saturday, December 7, 2013

About Church Flowers during Advent

Traditionally, the general rule is that there should be no altar flowers during Advent, although evergreens may be placed in the sanctuary. This is because it is a solemn season of preparation for Christmas.  The season's penitential nature can be seen in its liturgical color, which is violet.

An exception to the rule is made for the Third Sunday, called "Gaudete".  Its name comes from the first word of the introit of the day's Mass -- in English "rejoice" ("Rejoice in the Lord always . . .".)  Gaudete Sunday anticipates the joy of Christmas.

On Gaudete, rose-colored vestments are worn.  Therefore, a pair of vases filled with pink roses or pink carnations is appropriate.  But because of the solemnity of the overall season, this should be a restrained presentation and no more than two vases should be used.

As for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the liturgical color is white. For those of us who attend the traditional Latin Mass, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception this year (2013) "trumps" the Second Sunday of Advent because it is a first class feast.  I understand that for those who do not attend the traditional Latin Mass, Immaculate Conception has been transferred to Monday, December 9, at least in the United States.

As far as I know, there is no prohibition against honoring Our Lady with altar flowers on this Holy Day.  It seems unlikely since even during Lent when altar flowers are forbidden, an exception is made for the Feast of the Annunciation.

That being said, it might be best to just use very nice foliage.  According to an old English "table of flowers" for feast days, the appropriate foliage for the Immaculate Conception is arbor vitae (pictured above). In any event, one should attempt to maintain the sense of restraint appropriate to the season.

Image:  From Wikimedia Commons.  (Click for license.)


Janet Baker said...

Hi, Marie-Jacqueline,

I am reading this post on the use of flowers in Advent with interest, but I am a little frustrated that I would not know where to start to get arbor vitae in Chicago. I had the great privilege to help with getting the flowers (not arranging them) in Guadalajara, Mexico. Someday you must go there to their flower market. It is several BLOCKS large, of different stands of sellers, and there is every possible kind of flower. I do not know the name of them in English, I could only point in Spanish if you know what I mean. I got flowers, but did not know their name.

Now in Chicago I get flowers from Jewel Osco and Mariano's. I tried to find some central delivery place, if not a market, but I could not. How do you go about finding flowers short of growing them yourself? (My little condo is already jampacked.)

I am loving all I'm reading! I am going to share the blog with my fellow flower arrangers at Our Lady Immaculate in Oak Park. Thank you so much for your attention to this special topic, an activity both spiritual and creative.

Marie-Jacqueline said...

Hi Jan, Thank you for your comment. I think arbor vitae is actually pretty easy to find -- sometimes even in supermarkets where it is sold with a selection of greenery to be added to flower arrangements. Try asking at the floral section of your local big chain supermarket or a florist who might sell you some stems without having to buy the other greenery.