Of Texts and Textiles (III)

One morning last week, I went to Ikea for fun. I got a new spatula, lanterns for my porch, a couple measuring cups, and some fabric. Now, there is no reason for me to buy fabric, since I already have stacks of fabric that I haven’t done anything with—yet. But I have a real weakness for patterned textiles.

There’s something magical about them, as if possibility is woven into them–the potential to become curtains or a throw pillow or art. And since “textile” and “text” come from the same root word, it explains my tendency to hoard both fabric and books. Kind of.

In the third Last Word of Jesus from the cross, some interesting weaving happens. John’s gospel depicts about a dozen people nearby. Soldiers, four men, are stationed there to guard the crucified bodies. Jesus’ friends and family are there, four women: his mother, his aunt, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. The disciples are nowhere to be found, except for John.

Jesus has just promised the repentant thief that he would be with him in paradise. He next takes care of his aging mother by placing her in the care of his best friend.

To Mary he says, “Here is your son.” And to John he says, “Here is your mother.”

Knowing that Jesus is tying up loose ends on earth, John confirms, “From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” Not only do Jesus’ words tie up loose ends, but they also stitch the two together, beloved mother and beloved disciple.

In the preceding verses, the soldiers have divided Jesus’ garments among themselves four ways, but a dilemma presents itself. Jesus’ long, tunic-like undergarment is seamless, “woven in one piece from top to bottom.” It would be a shame to tear apart a thing of such perfect wholeness—even a barbarian can see that—so the soldiers gamble for it.

This perfectly seamless textile is like Jesus, woven of fibers wholly man and wholly God, wholehearted in love. There from the beginning, this living Text was with God and he was God. And although his tunic was preserved in perfect unity, he gave his body to be riven for us, making a way to God.

See Mary and John, a widow leaning on the arm of her son’s dear friend, slowly leaving Calvary. They’ve been woven together, a garment of unity and wholeness to clothe the Church to come.

Note from Em In January and February, I took a dive into a tradition that was, until recently, unfamiliar to me: Jesus’ Last Words from the cross, also known as the Sayings of Jesus on the cross. These seven phrases are taken from all four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Woven together, they form a cohesive narrative of Jesus’ final hours. Books I read include Cross-Shattered Christ by Stanley Hauerwas, Echoes from Calvary edited by Richard Young, Seven Last Words by Timothy Radcliffe, In the Shadow of the Cross by Stephen C. Rowan, Seven Last Words by Fr. James Martin, and Friday Afternoon: Reflections on the Seven Last Words by Neville Ward. These seven posts I am writing during Lent are my reflections on the Last Words. Enjoy.

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