The first determination if you are going to decorate a sanctuary is not, “is it pretty?” but rather, “is it liturgically fitting.” It may be that a blue altar clothe would be smashing with the Easter lilies rather than white flowers against a white altar clothe, but there is no excuse for blue as an altar clothe in the Easter season. It will then cease to have liturgical meaning and simply become eye candy. That is Okay for the Easter banquet, not the Mass. It will have to be back to the drawing board.
Though much of the language is loss to moderns, flowers have a very deep symbolic language. We still know some of them, lilies, as stated above, are associated with the resurrection while poinsettias are strictly Christmas. Keeping them in their liturgical season can be very helpful. For the savvy person who is decorating, there is a year (or years) long attack plan in decorating. I will admit to being a little overly scrupulous in this regard. But even if nobody else gets it, I do. But I do hope that it makes a difference in people’s experience of parish life even if on a subconscious level.
For example, the day that the Christmas season is over every poinsettia is removed from the church. “Adopt a plant and take it home or its going out into the cold.” There are places that will leave their seasonal plants up because they still look nice. Why waste the money? Right? This I understand. But I want someone to walk into this parish and say, “Guess that’s over. We must be in another season.”
Having a yearlong idea of what might work saves the person who decorates from having to overcompensate for not having planned how transition seasons. Because there may not be much of a change from ordinary time to the Lenten season for example, rather than un-decorating for Lent, parishes decorate like mad to let us know that we are in a time of desolation. So sanctuaries are strewn with dead branches, cinderblocks, barbwire, giant purple banners, and sand (just to name a few) to help us experience bareness.
Only the laundress knows just how peculiar I am in this regard - reaching even to the type of shirt I wear to Sunday Mass. (I doubt anybody notices, but it puts me in a right mind.) When we hit this coming advent, I will wear an ordinary, standard black clerical shirt under my robes. When we hit Christmas, I will switch to the more formal white. The following ordinary time (this is where I might need some psychological help) I change back to black but half way through change to white so that when we hit lent, I can make the change back to black. (I never admitted this to a soul before.)
Sometimes people do pick up things that I think nobody will. Often it is teenagers interestingly enough. During most of the year, at the elevation, I will “piece together” the host before saying, “Behold the Lamb of God.” In lent and advent I’ll the broken half host giving a different look and feel. Doing it either way is neither right nor wrong, but it can be made to signal something.
All this is to go to say the first question is not, “Wouldn’t it be pretty if . . .” but rather, “How would doing “X” tie in to the liturgical life of the parish?”