“The Life, Light, and Fire of Triune Love and Color”
Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP
Father = Life of Love; Son = Light of Love; Holy Spirit = Fire of Love
[Below is something developed from a footnote of my STL thesis]
I realize that some may find the theology of Aquinas too heady. So here is another approach to the psychological model. I am a servant of all temperaments, even the more artistic. It is my own idea here so feel free to take it or leave it. It may sound a little silly at first but give it a try. Anyways, I think we can appropriate to each divine Person a color. Yes a color. Green to the Father, the Life of Love. White to the Son, the Light of Love. And Red to the Holy Spirit, the Fire of Love. It is important because we should appreciate how the Trinity touches our whole being, including the intuitive, emotive, and imaginative. It all has to be imbued with reason in a healthy, rational theo-logos. But especially since color comes from creation, from nature, which God created with a purpose it is not so far-stretched. Why did God create a world full of colors? He could have done it differently.
But consider the color red first. Does not the color red carry within itself a notion of passion or the fire of love? Not only by custom or convention, but in the color itself. We might consider the passionate ardor in a reddened face of a human being, for instance, or the red of blood. There is something affective and volitional about red. So I am proposing that the color red itself manifests something of the Holy Spirit, the Fire of Love. Red reaches into the intuitive, emotive, and imaginative dimensions of our human nature and manifests there something of the Fire of Love. And we see the Church on Masses of the Holy Spirit uses red vestments. It is not a mistake.
The color white, then, manifests something of the Light of Love, the Son. Think of the pure white light, the pure light of the sun. It reminds us of the light of the intellect. The link of white with light is evident. Also notice that on feasts of the Lord Jesus, the Church uses white vestments. Think also of the white Host or bread that is transformed into our Lord Jesus, the Light of Love.
Finally, the color green manifests something of the Father, the Life of Love. Think of the new green growth of spring. Step outside and the world is alive with green. The color green in nature itself bears within itself life. And what about green vestments and the growth implied in our liturgical Ordinary Time, and perhaps a time of the Father? That last one is less established. But certainly green is a color of new growth and life and so shows forth something of the Father as the Life of love engendering new life.
Here’s one more thing in support of all this. John of the Cross was very much the artist and very much in contact with Father, Son, and Spirit. And he uses the colors red, white, and green in much the same way as we have. We will see more of John in the last conference but let me briefly summarize his use of these colors. In Dark Night, book II, chapter 21, he lines up these three colors with the three theological virtues, with the memory, understanding, and will, and with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So to summarize, John of the Cross lines up: red-charity-will-Holy Spirit. Then white-faith-understanding-Son. And then green-hope-memory-Father. So this matches nicely with us attributing green to the Father, the Life of Love; white to the Son, the Light of Love: and red to the Spirit, the Fire of Love.
There’s one more exciting thing about this. We have here all the primary colors except one. What are we missing? Blue. What element of Catholicism do we intuitively turn to with the color blue? Mary. Is it just by custom or convention? I, for one, think not. For instance, among various ancient myths from different cultures, it is common for them all to see the blue sea as a receptive womb. The blue sea as a receptive womb we find for instance at the beginning of Genesis chapter 1 and the account of creation. In the blue of Mary, we also have feminine receptivity. In the blue of Maria-Ecclesia, we have the feminine receptivity of the Church and of all creation. All creation receptive to the work of Father, Son, and Spirit. Thus the symbolism of the four main colors would cover all reality, divine and created.
Maybe this last part on blue is a bit of a stretch, but I think what I said about green, white, and red and the Life, Light, and Fire of Triune love has a firm foundation. I believe there is a primordial inclination to deal with these colors in these ways, not just out of convention but because of an objective basis in reality. In other words, by working out some under-explored and subtle implications of the psychological model, I timidly want to suggest how color may be a trace of the Trinity. I am a little embarrassed to do so, but I have found something personally helpful here, so I share it. Our whole interior subjectivity is marked by knowing and loving and hence is marked by Father, Son, and Spirit—even those dimensions of oneself brought out in art.
Like I said, take it or leave it. All this would probably be evaluated most fairly during a quiet walk through Nature, where we approach the whole world in faith and in prayer. In the midst of the green of new life springing forth is not something of the Father, the Life of Love pressing in upon us? Does not the white light of the sun, beyond all words, give us an intuitive sense of the Son, the Word, the Light of Love? Does not the red of passion or of blood or of berries fire our hearts with an inkling towards the Holy Spirit, the Fire of Love? It does for me. Give it a try.
But whatever the case, with Thomas’ beautiful teaching on the Trinity and the Word breathing forth love, the Trinity has come very close to us. With our contemplative gaze, we are invited to see how Father, Son, and Spirit have entered into every nook and cranny of our lives and have left traces of their footprints in all of creation.