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Lent in the Holy Land

Lent in the Holy Land

The year 2012 found me in the Holy Land during Lent.  As a vestment maker, I went imagining that a stole would emerge.  I was right!  The images I encountered spoke to me in very powerful ways and I began to imagine what they would look like as I worked on the design in my mind’s eye.  Barely four days into the trip, the design had grown to the point that I began to wonder how it would all fit.  That got me to thinking that it needed to be so much more and I worked up the courage to approach my Bishop with a possibility.  As we were walking in the wilderness, I approached him and began to tell him all about what I was seeing and drew pictures of the design in the air. I told him it had outgrown a mere stole and needed to be a complete set; but there was a problem… it would have no liturgical color so could not be worn by just anyone, it needed to be his.  He listened politely, laughed at me and walked away and I thought to myself, “great, that didn’t go over so well…”

A few days later, he approached me and asked what it looked like now.  And so it began; every so many days, we would talk and I would continue to draw in the air and the images coalesced into what would be a complete set for him.

Having gotten that all figured out, I knew I wanted to use some fabrics from the Holy Land in the design.  We were on a very tight experiential trip with little time for shopping but our guide knew I was after fabric.  On our final day in Jerusalem, we had about two hours to wander.  Graciously, he pointed out some shops for me so, when the day’s tour was over, off I went to gather the fabric.  It was to be a most harrowing experience!  Let’s just say Old City Jerusalem would not pass most electrical or fire code inspections.  The shop I went to had all their silk fabrics upstairs.  The stairs were very steep, had no railing and were lined with tubes of fabrics precariously stacked against the wall making for a very narrow passage.  Once upstairs, there were bolts of fabric stacked to the top of the 12 foot ceiling everywhere.  The shop keeper spoke Arabic, I spoke English, a friend had brought along an intern he was working with who spoke some Hebrew.  The shop keeper spoke enough Hebrew to communicate with the intern who translated for me… but he kept showing me polyester and I kept saying no polyester.  He finally understood what I meant and brought out some beautiful silk/cotton blends.  To prove they were not polyester, he took out his lighter (Polyester will catch on fire whereas silk will just singe the edges) and proceeded to show me.  I grabbed the lighter saying yes, I know and praying no sparks would fly as I imagined the headlines back home saying “Members of the Diocesan trip to the Holy Land found dead in Old City fire.”  Thankfully, that was not to be, I got some absolutely beautiful silk moiré fabrics that found their way into the set and all was well!

A Lenten Epiphany

A Lenten Epiphany

I spent Lent of 2012 in Israel.  I was fortunate to be one of a few lay people included on a trip Bishop Mark Beckwith of the Diocese of Newark arranged for his clergy.  It was to be one of the most powerful experiences of my life.   When we arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane, our guide explained to us how olive trees are trimmed of their branches on a regular basis and in their place grow many more branches.  He told us of how the roots grow new trunks which, as they grow, eventually merge with the tree causing it to grow ever larger.  As he came to the end of his talk, he invited us to go into the Garden to pray just as Jesus had done all those years ago.
That is when I began to imagine Jesus at the roots of the same olive tree I stood before.  He was a carpenter, he knew all about trees.  He was a man who spoke in parables.  And so it was, I came to believe he found some sense of peace as he prayed.  He knew his life was about to be taken.  But, he also knew olive trees.  When you cut off their branch, new branches grow and the base gets ever larger.  I imagined Him at peace knowing that while they would cut Him down, new followers would arise and band together and keep on living His message of hope and love.  You and I are testaments to that vision today.  Thanks be to God!
And that is how my Lenten epiphany informed the vestments that would follow… the darkness cannot overcome the light, even in the most uncertain of times.

The first picture shows the Lectern hanging and Frontal.  Three fine stands of light appear in the darkness; one is the God thread, another the individual and the third all of human kind.  The God thread holds and supports the individual until human kind joins in.  As the strands get to the frontal, they grow in size with the light getting ever more powerful.

The second picture shows the Frontal with the Pulpit hanging now in view.  The Pulpit is almost all light and you can imagine Easter just out of reach for the moment but promising to be there. If you look closely at the frontal, you will see the strand of light that has a hand painted silk within that includes browns and reds… that is the God thread; that is God saying “give me all your pain, your fears, your worries and I will hold them for you”.
The metaphor is continued on the chasuble and stole.  Be sure to notice how the light comes from the reverse side of the stole in the beginning and spills over to the reverse side as the light grows ever stronger.
The column banners are purple as you look toward the altar and show an ever increasing number of light strands coming into the church.  As you walk away from the altar, the banners are full of light and the strands have turned to darkness being blown away.
It was such an interesting challenge to create the contemporary Celtic knot used in this design but I love the symbolism of how we are all connected, including the God thread!