And thou shalt make a hanging for the door of the tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework. Exodus 26:36 (KJV)
Growing up, we had the privilege of watching our grandmother go into the church each week and dress the altar. At the time our family was Catholic, like most families in our community, and we were heavily involved in the church. Going to mass on Saturday nights, celebrating holidays, and performing all our sacraments were woven into our daily life. Our grandmother and her best friend, Mrs. Dee, would sew the altar cloths and sometimes the priest’s stoles. Over time, our mother assumed this role too. When we would go with Gram to dress the altar and pulpit, she allowed us to be on the altar which we thought was reserved for adults, mainly men, and altar boys. It felt as if we were a part of higher society. Witnessing the changing of colors and decorations was a privilege. We were seeing it before anyone else! Every Christmas, it was decorated with extra candles, poinsettias, manger scenes, wreaths, reds, golds, greens. But at Easter, it was always decorated in the deepest richest purples you could ever imagine. I assumed everything was purple because most of most Easter flowers were white and purple, surely a sign of Spring. Little did this child truly understand the greater meaning.
So what is the behind the meaning or significance of purple during Lent? If we look more closely at the color purple in the bible it signifies a few things.
First, it signifies wealth. Among other colors like scarlet and gold, purple a difficult color to be produced in that time period. Therefore only the wealthiest could afford to have it made into garments and curtains. In Esther 8:15, And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple…
Second, it signifies authority. Kings and soldiers to the roman army wore colors that signified status. In particular, we know most Roman soldiers wore red or scarlet, however, higher-ranking soldiers often wore purple alongside Kings. Judges 8:26, …besides ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian.
Finally, it signifies mockery. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. (John 19: 2-3). And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him. Mark 15:2020 KJV
With a deliberate reading of various passages that reference purple, the Passion is the one that hits the hardest. To me, it no longer signifies Spring and rebirth. A purple cloth draped over the cross is a stark reminder that Jesus was mocked and ridiculed up until death. It’s such a striking color that makes us pause. It’s a reminder during Lent of how God wants us to spend time reflecting on what He sacrificed for us, how He forgives our sins time and time again. It’s a dark color reminding us that we all have darkness within.
So I challenge you this week to find something purple and leave it out where it will remind you to pause for God. Let it make you think of how you can repent your sins to God so that you may be forgiven and renewed by His grace. Remember we all are fighting something in the dark. You are not alone. God will not deny you because of these sins, that’s why He sent us Jesus.
What’s one thing that you are trying to change during this Lenten season?
How can we pray for you?