Clerical Stole for Lent
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"Water, Feet, Towels and Jesus"
The story of Lent really is a tale of water, feet, towels and Jesus.*
At the beginning of Lent we receive ashes on our foreheads. We then journey through this penitential season with a focus on sin in our lives, sin in the world, injustices around us, grief, doubt, guilt, and so on. Then, somehow, as we move through all this we start to heal, to see light, to be washed and cleansed. Nearing the end of Lent a ritual of Maundy Thursday is foot washing which we take from the actions of Christ at the Last Supper.
If you have ever been the recipient of ashes on your forehead or tried to wash the feet of someone you don't know very well, or even of someone you know very well, you will remember how self-conscious you felt. Wouldn't it be easier not to attend this service? Just as the sinning, grieving, doubting parts of ourselves are the parts we try to keep in the shade, sharing our foreheads or bare feet with another is very disconcerting. Even wearing no socks at the altar is a challenge to our whole comfort zone. But this challenging what is comfortable and known is what we are called to do during Lent.
We are to open our hearts to see what we have been shoving under the towel in our lives. We are to take risks, to acknowledge where we have fallen short, to heal the parts that fester. We are to open wide our eyes, look around and shake off the comfort of tunnel vision in the pew and in the world. We are to Pass The Peace that passes all understanding with forgiveness and grace in our every fibre. We are to be uncomfortable. Yes, for forty days.
Jesus lived a life full of discomfort. He called the undesirables of the day close to him. He challenged the rich man's comfort. He hung out with prostitutes and lepers. And us, too. Ordinary sinners like us were called to love and serve God. Jesus made us so uncomfortable we killed him to shut him up. That statement makes me uncomfortable. Exactly. Each day of Lent strips away layers of comfort so that only the cross is left.*
This stole design seeks to visually remind us of all the cleansing we must do. Pieces in it are made with horse hair canvas which is reminiscent of hair shirts that clergy used to wear for penitential rites. This reminds us to challenge comfort. The towel hanging around the neck is certainly not a traditional symbol for Lent but challenges the ‘norms' of the season. And then there is the water. A clear, shining basin of water. The light in it reminds us that throughout Lent Sundays are not counted in the forty days because they are mini-celebrations of Easter. We do have light and hope in the wilderness of the season. Using this hope we ready ourselves for the beginning of a new life in Christ. We have symbolically washed our feet. By the end of Lent we must have towelled off and readied ourselves.
Inspired by Nora Gallagher’s book "Things Seen and Unseen".