BLUE, PURPLE, and SCARLET were the colors woven into the WHITE linen of the Tabernacle veil. Embroidered upon the veil were the cherubim, possibly golden, and symbolic of God’s glory, presence, or power. While each color of the veil depicts a certain spiritual characteristic, the veil represented the coming Messiah for Israel. When introducing the genesis of Christ, the Messiah, each of the four gospel writers has woven one specific veil color into the gospel story.
PURPLE represents royalty, a theme in the Gospel of Matthew. Joseph, of the lineage of King David, adopted Jesus as his son. Having followed the Messiah’s kingly star, the Magi presented the six-month old baby Jesus with kingly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh on the first Christmas (12/25/02 BC). Enraged upon hearing of a kingly rival, Herod the Great sought the infant’s life. The purple threads throughout the gospel of Matthew certainly proclaim the nature of the Messiah, King of the Jews.
SCARLET represents redemption, a theme in the Gospel of Mark. Having come to serve, Jesus’ earthly birth was not particularly important to mention, but He is briefly identified as the Son of God. However, his task of redeeming humankind by laying his own life down and shedding his blood for us is to be the most important gift bestowed upon humanity. While pointing to the Redeemer, the scarlet thread woven throughout Mark’s gospel story is the brightest color in the veil.
WHITE represents the perfect Man, a theme in the Gospel of Luke. For the Savior to enter the human realm would require a spiritual conception and a natural birth: The Holy Spirit overshadowing a virgin. To ponder how the human DNA of the mother’s seed (X) could unite with spiritual seed of the Heavenly Father (Y) is amazing. After taxing circumstances, the Virgin Mary gave birth to the Lamb of God in a manger. Then shepherds, who had harkened to the angels praising God for the Savior’s birth, came to see the baby Jesus. Certainly, Luke’s gospel has interlaced the perfect human with the perfect Savior.
BLUE represents the heavenly, a theme in the Gospel of John. In Exodus, Moses had described seeing God on a transparent pavement of sapphire, like the substance of heaven. Likewise, St. John introduces Jesus Christ in a heavenly atmosphere as the pre-existent Logos. Jesus is the revealed deity manifested in the flesh. He is the Living Word who was in the beginning, was with God, and was God. He is the Light for all men. This same Living Word became flesh and dwelt among us. As St. John interweaves the sapphirine threads among the fine linen, he reveals the mystery of the dual nature of Jesus Christ, divine and human.
Nowadays, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ by giving gifts and decorating our homes, churches, and stores. As we celebrate the Lord Jesus Christ this Christmas, let us remember the special colors that symbolize our Savior. Most important let us not forget the importance of the Christ Child as King, the Redeemer, Savior, and Son of God.
Thanks to Anne-Laurel Gardere for giving me permission to post her pictures.