The New Zealand Anglican Lectionary, an annual publication, has a habit of changing things without any explanation or introduction. This year, one of the changes is that the 2008 year Western tradition (well give or take a bit) of celebrating St Luke in Red has in this 2009th year been changed to White. No explanation. No introduction.
A priest friend rang me up about it last night, asking my explanation. He says one of our bishops read an article suggesting this – and we are now leading the world in this new development!
Colours are not mandatory in NZ Anglicanism. In fact this same Lectionary 2009 states “[Colours] are not mandatory but reflect common practice in most parishes.” Well, in this case: Yeah Right! If colours are descriptive not prescriptive, then the colour for Luke would be,…. should be,… Red. Because until this year – that is what EVERYBODY used.
When our 1989 Prayer Book was produced, Luke’s feast day took precedence over the Sunday propers. In other churches the Sunday takes precedence over the feast of St Luke, unless of course that is your patronal feast. Recent alterations, as is normal in our church, have increased flexibility. You can now choose yourself. So today you can wear Green (the Sunday), White (the suggested colour in the lectionary), or Red (as a liturgical rebel like me will do – following the 2008 or so years of Western tradition!). You are, in NZ, of course, permitted to wear Violet – particularly if it matches and enhances your complexion.
ps. Matthew and Mark’s colours have similarly been changed in the NZ Lectionary from Red to White.
pps. Luke’s martyrdom is disputed. Only John is traditionally White amongst the evangelists because of the four of them, his non-martyrdom is not disputed.