This is another popcorn tree in Chattanooga, at the riverfront, not too far from the hospital. This time the popcorn tree was a liturgical color appropriate for these last few days of Lent. We don’t have these in Minnesota that I know. I’m guessing the Blessed Mother would very much appreciate flowers of such a color being given to her, reminding her of her Son when He was draped in Herod’s own royal purple garments to be sent back, thus mocked, to Pontius Pilot. So ferocious was the intended sarcasm that these two enemies became friends that very day, surely having hysterical fits of laughter at Jesus’ expense. She surely doesn’t mind being reminded of such an event, for this makes the true majesty of Jesus shine forth all the more brightly.
Purple-violet is the liturgical color, whatever the words used in the rubrics might be. Indeed, royal purple. I say that because, from the beginning, this color is indisputably that of the bolinus brandaris, a murex gastropod mollusk, a rock faring predatory sea snail, from which was extracted the dye of the color peculiar to just such a species of critter, which was rare enough and difficult enough to obtain that it drove up the cost of garments with such a color so that only the ultra-super-rich political oppressors of a people, like filthy extravagant Herod, could afford it and unworthily wear it. Thus: royal purple.
This is the color for penitential seasons such as Advent and Lent as it reminds one of the sovereign dignity of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Prince of the Most Profound Peace even while we recognize that He comes with such jaw-dropping humility, so that He chooses to be born in a manger in a cave and die on a cross and be buried in a cave. But more than this, royal purple reminds us of the brutal abuse of power by the political self-congratulators of this world, and how they took advantage of smashing down Mary’s Son so as to make themselves look tough in their own eyes though only as useful idiots (though otherwise useless) in the eyes of everyone else.
Liturgical use of royal purple is fitting as an examination of conscience for us who can be so politically correct in a thousand ways hidden from our own proud eyes but revealed by learning humility from our guardian angels. They are very adept as smacking us down in just such a way that we will be able with grace to look to Jesus with humble thanksgiving.
But I must confess that I fell into a lapse of penitential observance that fine day in Chattanooga, having a bit of scrumptious ice-cream with the priest with whom I had a ferocious spiritual conversation for hours on end. But I rationalize that it was meant to keep up strength for such strenuous talks. Besides, this would carry me all the way back to the parish in the high country of WNC when I was finally able to pick up my parishioner from Erlanger Hospital.
Oh, and the subject of such a ferocious spiritual conversation? Well, it wouldn’t be a conversation of priestly fraternity if I were to let on what the subject was, would it?
Encourage vocations to the priesthood. To be in solidarity with our High Priest while He is in solidarity with us brings with it a certain majesty not always appreciated by all, but, hey, that’s the privilege, a good kind of clericalism if you will. And Mary is the Mother of Priests.