[This article appeared in the April 2014 issue of the Canadian Martyrs Epistle]
We are a small but dedicated group that works hard to enhance the church environment and, through that, the liturgy. We have struggled with what to call our committee as liturgical environment committee sounds like we are in charge of cleaning the church and taking out the trash and décor committee sounds almost frivolous. A decorator is someone who puts the icing on the cake but we are really more about the cake than the icing. The Latin word “decorus” means proper, decent, or fitting. Decoration is used to make the church ready for the liturgy. We try to enhance the liturgy with the decoration not distract from it.
The Liturgical environment changes with the church’s seasons. Each liturgical season has its own décor. We are busiest during the seasons of Advent and Lent.
During Advent, the church slowly gets decorated for Christmas. The first week, the Advent wreath is set up and the empty crèche is brought up from the basement to wait for its occupants. The second week is busy as our volunteer elves appear and the trees, garlands, and wreaths are added to the church environment. The lights are put on the trees in anticipation of Christmas Eve. The 3rd and 4th weeks are used to prepare the Christmas decorations. Flowers are purchased and a general theme is discussed: poinsettias, Christmas balls in vases, ornaments hung on spray painted branches, etc. The magic happens on Christmas Eve when all the decorations are put out for the celebration that night. I always enjoy walking into the church and seeing the end product of all of our work.
Lent starts with the removal of all of the decorations from the church for Ash Wednesday. We are in the desert waiting for it to bloom. Each week we add to the desert theme: rocks, sticks, cacti, small green sprouts, water, pussy willows, butterflies, and finally forsythia. In past years, we have picked a symbol from the week’s readings and displayed it at the altar. On Palm Sunday, the Lenten decorations are cleared away and palms are purchased. The Paschal Triduum is a busy time for our small group. The décor changes for each day of the Triduum and Easter flowers must be bought and arranged. The Easter decorations remain for the 6 Sundays of Easter until Pentecost. We often have fun with the décor for Pentecost: fire colours – red, orange and yellow!
During Ordinary time, we decorate to reflect the season, summer and fall, with special decorations for Feast days (e.g. the Transfiguration of the Lord, Christ the King) and special days on the calendar (e.g. Canada Day, Chinese New Year). During the summer we often use fresh flowers from the church’s garden or flowers that have been generously donated from a parishioner’s garden. Autumn décor is dictated by the turning of the leaves and the arrival of Thanksgiving which leads us into Advent and all the planning starts again!
Please take a moment every Sunday to notice the church environment. We hope it adds to the liturgy in some small way.