liturgical colors and symbols

Symbols are not objects to be worshiped, rather signs that point to the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

In addition to the Presbyterian Seal, there is great symbolism in the use of colors, signs and symbols used in worship in the Presbyterian Church.

Scroll down to find a discussion of the symbolism found in the sanctuary of Central Presbyterian Church.

liturgical colors

Liturgical colors can orient us to the season of the church year and help to engage the sense of sight in worship. This was not always the case. For the first thousand years of the church's history, little thought was given to liturgical color. White vestments were most common, with more elaborate garments and paraments (of whatever color) reserved for important festivals. The 12th through 16th centuries brought localized experiments with liturgical color, but no standard practices prevailed until 1570, when the Roman Catholic Church established a normative sequence of colors to accompany the church calendar. Calvinists in the 16th century eschewed these rubrics, however, preferring black vestments. The past two centuries have seen a resurgence in the use of liturgical colors, propelled by a new appreciation for the aesthetic dimensions of worship.   


  • purple

    Purple represents penitence and preparation because it signifies the feeling of sorrow for our sins in the light of Christ's passion and death. The color purple is used during both Advent and Lent. In Lent, purple is used beginning Ash Wednesday and extending through Maundy Thursday. Then the church remains bare until Easter; however, some congregations use black during that time.

  • red

    Red is the color of fire and symbolizes the presence of God's Holy Spirit and the sacrifices of martyrs. Pentecost is the only Sunday for red in the liturgical calendar. Red is often used for ordination services.

  • green

    Green is the color of new vegetation. It symbolizes the hope of new life which is ours in the life of Jesus Christ. The color green is used for all other time periods (called Ordinary Time) not marked by a specific festival or season.

  • white

    White symbolizes purity, holiness, and virtue, as well as respect and reverence. White (and gold) represent days and seasons of joy and mark pivotal events in the life of Christ. They are used for all high Holy Days and festival days of the church year. The color white is used for Epiphany, the seven weeks of Easter, Christmas Eve through Epiphany, and the four transitional Sundays in Ordinary Time: Baptism of the Lord, Transfiguration of our Lord, Trinity Sunday, and Christ the King Sunday. White is also used for weddings and funerals.

Christ's monogram

This symbol can be found on the parament which hangs on the pulpit. The symbol is an ancient monogram for Christ (or Christogram), derived from the first three letters of "Jesus" in Greek: iota - eta - sigma.

the cross

The cross, the most basic of Christian symbols, is the central focal point in the front of the sanctuary.

the lord's table

The beautiful cross-stitched cloths on the Lord's Table were stitched by former pastor Rev. George McDonald. The cloth on the left bears the seal of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The triangle on the right is a unique representation of the Holy Trinity with the blue portion showing Chi Rho, the christogram for Christ. 


Why are there always two candles on the altar? The two candles represent God in two forms: fully human and fully divine.