A few thoughts on weaving.

It’s Holy Saturday, so I figured I’d post about weaving. What does weaving have to do with Holy Week and Easter? Well, I didn’t make the connection until last night when I was at church for Good Friday.

“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took His tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in once piece from the top down. So they said to one another, ‘Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be.'”

During the homily, Fr. O’Hara mentioned that what he was most fascinated with as a young person in this gospel was the everyday details that are included, from what the soldiers carried to the garden, to what type of fire Peter stood by to stay warm, to the quality of Jesus’ clothing. “Mary was a really good weaver,” Father said, “to make a garment seamless and strong, especially something that would have been worn so hard as a tunic.”

I like knowing that Mary was a skilled weaver, though if you think about it, she would have had to have been in that time. To think about Mary the Mother of God spinning and weaving to clothe her family, probably going to the equivalent of our ‘Stitch ‘n’ Bitch’ or quilting bees. She must have had a favorite spindle and little tricks for drafting. She definitely must have had tricks for keeping her weaving even and strong.

I did a little bit of online research, and (of course), I’m not the first person to have thought a bit about this. According to one blog, the Eastern Orthodox tradition generally depicts Mary spinning at the time of the annunciation, rather than reading like we most often see in the Western European tradition. She is usually shown spinning a red thread that would later be used to weave the veil of the temple.

Separate from the Annunciation and spinning, the Virgin Mary is often depicted weaving in The Book of Hours, essentially a lay-person’s breviary or Divine Office. The Book of Hours is an illuminated manuscript, or one with decorated letters, borders, and miniatures. It is interesting that these miniatures show Mary doing essential household chores, doing the work to care for her household.

It makes you wonder why most images of Mary depict her either holding baby Jesus or at the base of the cross. She was a busy woman, with friends and responsibilities. She had to learn to spin and weave as a child and probably started off with pretty lumpy-looking, uneven yarn, weaving it into stretched and uneven cloth. She had to go through all the growing pains and frustrations that we do – all while caring for the Son of God. Talk about responsibility. And through that all, she still was a superb craftswoman, clothing her son in a beautifully woven tunic.


One Comment to “A few thoughts on weaving.”

  1. My favorite painting of the Annunciation showed Mary’s lace pillow cast aside when Gabriel arrived. It was a renaissance era painting, but it is curious that she would have a lace pillow–lace is for the wealthy. Was she making lace to earn some money? It is not a famous painting–just one they stuck in a hallway somewhere in an Italian museum. but I have always liked pictures that show Mary and other women with their textiles.

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