Banners and paraments (hangings) have been hanging in churches for centuries. They are usually made by nuns. In past times, the color of vestments and paraments changed to mark seasons of the liturgical year to inform those who couldn’t read, and the tradition continues: red indicates Pentecost and martyrs feasts, green is for the ordinary time after Pentecost, white for holy days, purple or blue for Advent, purple for Lent.
Banners are messages. They tell the story, through symbols and words. Many Christian symbols date back to the first centuries after Christ while Old Testament symbols are older than the writings of the Scripture. Religious symbols are simple forms, not realistic pictures of objects. Many are actually letters from the Greek alphabet.
MAKING A BANNER
Banners can be made by gluing designs cut from felt to a background of felt or they can be finely embroidered on velvet or silk. It is the skill of the maker and availability of materials that decides what the banner will be made of.
During Advent we anticipate Christ's coming to earth as an infant and as Savior, his coming into the believer's waiting heart today, his coming again in power and glory. Advent marks the beginning of a new church year, awakening hearts to a new cycle of worship and celebration.
Traditionally purple--also the color of Lent--adorned church furniture during Advent. But since the characters of the seasons of Advent and Lent are quite different, blue has been specified as an Advent color. By placing blue fabrics on the altar and lectern during Advent, and purple fabrics during Lent. we have an opportunity to define each season with special colors and symbols.
We think of blue as best, as precious. Blue ribbons are best; blue chips, expensive; blue diamonds, rate. For centuries, blue fabrics were cherished and saved for special events. Nature provides very little in the way of permanent dyes for coloring fabrics blue, so weavers of fabrics purchased the expensive indigo plant from the Indies to dye their best cloths with the rich, deep, and durable color. Today we have an abundance of blue dyes synthesized from hydrocarbons, but early churches deemed blue fabrics very precious.
"As we begin the church year, we have "prepared the way" in the sanctuary. We have cleared out all visual elements and started a fresh look, making the altar the focal point toward which we direct all other visual elements".
The paraments on the altar and lectern match the Banner. I hope the congregation will feel the anticipation when they see the four-piece paraments. The excitement of the season builds as a section is added each Sunday in Advent, just as we add a lighted candle to the Advent wreath. The stars of the heavens remain symbols for us today, just as they did in ancient times. The Star came forth two thousand years ago, His light stretching from the past into the future, leading us from Bethlehem to our time and beyond.
The Advent Banner follows the theme and color of the paraments. Using the quote from Isaiah 35:1-2:
"The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the Excellency of our God."
I have used the Messianic Rose in groups of three in golds and silvers. Advent I has only one group. Advent II will have two groups added, so there are now three groups. Advent III will have three groups added making a total of six. Advent IIII will have four more groups added making a total of ten groups. This portrays the desert starting to bloom as we near Christmas time the date set as the birth of Christ.
As a whole, this might be titled "The Light coming into the world". What looks like a 'P' and an 'X' are called Chi Rho (pronounced kai-roh), the Greek letters for CHR, the abbreviation for Christ. In this instance the 'X' form looks almost like beams of light.
The brown manger underneath is the crib where the baby Jesus lay in the stable.
The Halo with rays over the crib signifies the presence of the Christ Child.
The Crown is the coming of the King.
The Star is the Star of Bethlehem.
The Lights are the stars in the nighttime sky.
This is a very simple theme for a very rich banner.
The three crowns superimposed on the Christ symbol of a Latin gold cross, signifying sacrifice, God's love, and salvation. Each crown stands for one of the Magi, who were very rich Zoroastrian priests. They brought very precious gifts for a King, not knowing that He was a newborn baby. I have used color and jewels to emphasize this
Black: The total absence of colour or light. Lent a period where we mourn our sins. In Luke 23:44-45 It says: "And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst."
Red: Three separate bands signify the 3 days in the ground. Also signifies the blood which our Dear Lord lost, the blood running down the cross and onto the hill called Golgotha, 'The Place of the Skull'. If you look closely you can see the red beads stitched on the hill. Count them and say them as a Rosary, as you ponder on them. Could you let your blood run freely so that others might live?
Gold: The Crown of Thorns. Who braided the crown? It was probably a Roman. One source says that it was made of reeds with thorns from another plant inserted into the braid. As you walk to St. Andrew's church near the gate, have you noticed the cactus beside the sidewalk? This is called the Crown of Thorns cactus. Do you pull over so that you do not get your clothes snagged? Jesus was not lucky enough to have a choice. None of us would choose to suffer as He did. Every time you work in the garden you usually put on gloves to save yourself from suffering. We wear shoes lest we step on a scorpion or other things that may hurt us. Go up close to the banner and see the drops of blood on the crown. Contemplate this, and see His Life Blood leaving him.
There are legends surrounding the Cross. One is that a little brown robin flew up to the Dear Lord's head and tried to pull out the thorns from that Face and then His Blood dropped on the breast of the robin and now all robins have red breasts. Another version is that the robin was pierced in his breast with a thorn. In North American robins, it is only the male whose breast is red. In the European robin, both male and female have red breasts. The robin is not native to Israel, but of late robins have been seen there. Another legend says that the one garment that could not be parted and shared, at the foot of the cross, was knitted by Mary, in the round without seams, and therefore the soldiers cast lots for it. Many Renaissance painters depict Mary knitting on 4 or 5 needles.
The gold cross was knitted on 2mm needles with 8 strands of fine gold thread. It was knitted in Linen Stitch which looks more like fabric. It took about 40 days to construct it. On the lower part of the cross you can see five red dots which signify the blood of Christ. These are red glass beads sewn in a spiral. On the lower part of the cross is a silver cross over an orb meaning victory over the sins of the world. In the upper left quadrant you see the Crown of Glory, signifying Christ the King. In the upper right is the Rising Sun signifying the Resurrection. In the lower left is a butterfly to represent new birth and renewal. Pure silk is the fabric of her wings. She is also beaded. The lower right quadrant holds the Pascal Lamb carrying the flag of Victory. Victory over the grave. The Lamb (with blue eyes) was knitted from pure undyed mohair. The design on her coat is called Trinity Stitch. (Three stitches in one and one in three). I have a personal attachment in that I knew the flock in Canada that that Angora Goat belonged to. The blue beaded flowers symbolize peace and love. The Alleluia is dancing with joy. The 'A' is illuminated with gold and blue and green beads to alphabetize the first letter.
"And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" Acts 2:3-4
The Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the church, spurs Christ's followers into action, the fire of the Holy Spirit lighting the spirit of love, enthusiasm, and dedication to the spreading of the Gospel. We celebrate the festival with bright red. Red suggests love, the passion of the heart, and the zeal inspired by Pentecost. The descending dove, still the most easily recognized symbol for the Spirit of the Lord, hovers above the flame. We are reminded that the Holy Spirit breathes life into the church of Christ, giving workers in the church purpose and directions.
This banner was made to look like a stained glass window in a church. The beige cotton is overlaid with cream bias tape to imitate blocks of stone. The turquoise window, red and orange fire with the white dove are all individual pieces of felt joined together with black bias tape which imitates the leading joining pieces of coloured glass together. In the centre of the flames is a Latin cross as a symbol of Christ, beside a star of David to indicate Christ's royal lineage.
The long season after Pentecost is the Time of the Church - a time to respond to God's grace, to look toward spiritual growth, and to explore the teachings of Christ. The Gifts of the Spirit are, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Some of the most well-known Pentecost symbols are vines, branches bearing fruit, wheat, grapes, birds, fish, water, bread, and wine. We see ourselves as branches bearing fruit, birds feeding upon the food of the scriptures, participants in the sacraments, workers in the field, and messengers of the gospel. Some of these symbols have been used in this banner.
Green depicts life and rebirth. Matching this banner are the paraments (altar hangings), you will see that they are reversible, the dark green brocade matching the banner and on the reverse is leaf green silk. Under the cross is a plaid effect, which, upon close inspection you will see is made of various shades and widths of satin ribbon giving us all the colors of summer.