By Elspeth Campbell
A FEW weeks ago we were conrisidering flower arrangements in the home. Now let's turn our attention to flower decorations in a church.
Catholics are renowned for their beautiful churches. Most of the decoration is permanent, but almost all churches have a vase of flowers on the Altar, or on the Altar steps; at one of the shrines, or the Lady Chapel. Flower decorations for a church are even more exacting than those at home, for they should help to beautify the House of God.
Now there are one or two things to consider before the choice of flowers even starts. Firstly, the wishes of the priest in charge must be respected. Some do not like the flowers on the high Altar at all, but prefer them to be kept to the side Altars or near the statues of the Saints.
THE Liturgical seasons also make I a difference to the choice of flowers and colours. It should be remembered that in Advent it is not usual to have flowers on the high Altar at all. The Church is wearing violet at this time.
At Christmas. white, silver, red and gold; ivy, holly and mistletoe. At Epiphany white and gold, and on the Sunday following, green. Septuagesima, Sexuagesima and Quinquagesima purple.
There are no flowers at all of course during Lent, except on Maundy Thursday, when white flowers are used. On the Altar of Repose flowers can be used in profusion, to represent a spring garden, usually yellows and whites.
At Easter, the Church is again arrayed in white and gold, as also on Ascension Day, At Whitsun it is scarlet and flame, to represent the tongues of fire. On Trinity Sunday white is again used, and after that the Sundays are green. This gives one an idea of the flower colourings that should be used at the various seasons.
It is difficult to generalise about flower arrangements for the Altar. Altars differ in size, depth, width, the number of candlesticks; whether there are steps leading up to the Tabernacle and the size of the Tabernacle itself. But above all, simplicity must be sought; nothing should detract from the sanctity of the Altar. Nor should vases of flowers get in the way of the Celebrant during the offering of Mass. Therefore flower arrangements should he placed well back on the altar.
AHAPPY arrangement is one se between each candlestick. In these the flowers should be well spread out sideways like a fan, so as not to lean back or forward too much. Care should always be taken to see that no leaves or long stalks come in contact with the candle flames. High scented flowers should not be used, as these attract flies and insects.
A piece of crumpled chicken-wire is invaluable for helping in the arrangement of a bowl of flowers. Nowadays, many different types of vases are permitted in a church; whereas once only brass and silver seemed to be used, white pottery and glass are now often seen in churches and the result is very pleasing.
A small urn is very effective or a low oval bowl, for a side altar. In these all the smaller and more delicate flowers can be placed, leaving the bigger, more distinctive flowers for the high Altar.
REMEMBER that the flowers and vases on the high Altar look very much smaller from the nave of the church than they really are. Therefore, large blooms should be used such as gladioli, arum lilies, delphiniums, chrysanthemums, peonies, long ,tulips, hydrangeas, etc. And these are often enhanced by the addition of large sprigs of leaves such as magnolia, beach and loquat.
Sprays of fruit blossom in season also give a very pleasing effect.
The smaller, more intimate flowers, such as carnations, cornflowers, roses, can be used or decorating the Lady Chapel and smaller altars. Small posies of all those myriad garden flowers that we know and love so dearly are a "devotion" in themselves.
For really efficient Altar arrange
ment it is recommended that a certain degree of knowledge in the wiring of flowers is worth while. Some help in this line may be found in "Flowers for the Altar" by Joy Fleming, published by The World's Work (1913) Ltd., The Windmill Press, Kingswood, Surrey, at 5s. This is an invaluable little handbook that every Altar Society should find it useful to have, if not for inspiration, at least for reference.
It gives some good advice on the preparation of flowers for the Altar and also includes a number of clear, black and white sketches illustrating flower arrangements for the beginner.