A symbol of purity, glory and eternal life

Clothing of “dazzling white.” That’s what we hear in the today’s Gospel. Throughout Jewish and Christian history, white garments or cloths of white have played a significant role in the sacred rites and celebrations. Scripture has several references to white — the angels at the tomb of Jesus were in white; in Daniel, there is the Ancient One in white; and, in Revelation, the singing multitudes in the new Jerusalem are seen in white robes

Have you ever really noticed how much white there is in our church rites? Infant baptismal garments, be they simple or ornate, are white in color. The catechumens often wear white at the Easter Vigil. First communicants wear white and most brides still choose a white dress for their wedding. From the time of the Second Vatican Council, the pall over the casket at funerals is also white as a reminder of baptism. If you have ever attended an ordination, the candidates are vested in white during the ceremony. So, you see, white garments play a significant role in our church rituals.

At Mass, the servers wear white albs, as do the deacon and priest under their other vestments. In some parishes, other lay ministers — choir members, lectors, cantors — may also wear white albs. In the order of liturgical colors, the white vestments are used for festive seasons, Christmas and Easter and many feast days of saints.

What other white do you see at Mass? When you look closely at the altar, you will see a white altar cloth in addition to any other seasonal color that may be present. On top of the altar cloth are white corporals that help to protect the main altar cloth; they are also used to cover the eucharistic vessels. There are white purificators used by the extraordinary ministers of holy Communion to wipe the lip of the chalice after each communicant partakes of the wine. Purificators are then used again to dry the chalices after they have been cleansed.

Then there are the white candles, but most especially, the paschal candle. A white candle is used at baptism. And let us not forget the wonderful light that shines from all the small, white candles illuminating the church at the Easter Vigil.

Whether we notice or not, white, as a symbol of purity, glory and eternal life, shines forth for us to admire and reflect upon as we participate in the rites of the church. Let it also remind us to be pure of thought, mind and heart as we go on with our daily lives.

Wettstein is a volunteer choir director and former director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.