Earlier this week I was watching some silly morning show and they were talking about the health benefits of purple sweet potatoes. My main reaction was “WHOA! THAT LOOKS LIKE PLAYDOH!”
It doesn’t look real! And this got me thinking about natural colors. What colors would I see and think that it doesn’t look like a child’s toy? When I think of nature, I think of green, maybe some brown. Another color I don’t think of when I think of nature is pink. When I think pink I think Barbie, the embodiment of plastic and fake.
BUT as I thought more, I started to think of the many places I see pink in nature. The most obvious example is flowers. Some of the most beautiful flowers are pink. The pink in flowers (along with red, blue, and purple) is mainly from pigments called anthocyanins. Many pink foods that come from plants (raspberries, dragonfruit, etc) get their color from these also.
There are many different chemicals that cause pink colors in nature. Beets are a dark pink food that comes from plants, but their color comes from betacyanin. This antioxidant gives the food its hue, but it also helps protect us against common carcinogens. This chemical gives us a beautiful color, but does so much more.
One pink in nature that I haven’t mentioned is animal meat (or muscle). Most meat that you get is red. Dark meat is made of muscles full of slow-twitch fibers, the types of muscles used for extended periods of time in activities like walking or standing. Because they’re used for so long, they need a consistent source of energy. The protein myoglobin does this job. It stores oxygen in the muscle cells and this myoglobin is pigmented. So the more myoglobin, the darker red. Cows have lots of myoglobin and thus dark red meat. Pigs have less myoglobin and thus have pink meat!
Needless to say, pink is rampant in nature if we just look for it. Even though the Catholic Church loves nature, it is rare to see pink in liturgical vestments. In fact, you’ll only see pink vestments 2 days out of the entire year. One is the 4th Sunday of Lent and one was last Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Lent.
The Catholic Church is very particular about the colors used in their liturgies. Each one has a specific meaning behind it. So what does pink mean? Both Sundays are named for Latin words translating to “rejoice”. The third Sunday of Advent is “Gaudete” Sunday. These Sundays and the color pink are meant to remind us to be joyful during an otherwise somber time of the liturgical calendar. These Sundays are to remind us why we are being penitential, why we are reflecting and bettering ourselves. We do so because at the end of the season is an unimaginable joy. In Advent it is the birth of Christ. In Lent it is His resurrection. These 2 joyful pink Sundays remind us to keep going through the hard times knowing of the promised Redemption.
The theologian Henri Nouwen described the difference between joy and happiness. He said while happiness is dependent on external conditions, joy is "the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death - can take that love away.”
This time of year can often be extremely stressful. Christmas can mean planning parties and buying gifts and coordinating travel. It can be overwhelming. So I encourage you to take the rest of this week to remember the joy of the season. Remember that you are unconditionally loved. Remember that God coming to the Earth as a child was done for you. He was thinking of you specifically when he was born in a manger. I can’t think of anything more joyful. Let us all celebrate and rejoice!