Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Woman (or Man) of the Cloth

I was asked yesterday what kind of cloth was being referred to in the phrase “man of the cloth”. I guessed it might be something metaphorical, maybe indicating the cloth of society, the threads that connect us. Perhaps it could be something more straightforward than that, meaning the robes or collar of a minister (which, in many denominations, could be either a man or a woman.)

Since I am a born researcher, I looked it up. My Oxford dictionary gives as one of the definitions of the word “cloth”: a profession or status, esp. of the clergy, as shown by the clothes (eg. man of the cloth). Okay, that seems pretty simple.

But then I looked it up in my Dictionary of Symbolism, where it says: Garments capable of enclosing the entire body lend optical unity to the human form and give it the appearance of power. The notion that something of the “aura” of the wearer is transmitted to the garment makes the robe of a prophet a precious inheritance. (See the story of Elijah.) Capes and cloaks have the further symbolic significance of protective enclosure or healing as in the story of St. Martin. As a legal symbol, wrapping one’s coat around another person means that one will accord parental care and protection to the other.

Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere. Let’s check the source. From Romans 13:14 we find: Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. And Isaiah 61:10: I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

So it would seem that the “cloth” of a person of God is both literal and metaphorical. Collars and cassocks, albs and capes aren’t just to convey authority or create a sense of ceremony and drama, they represent a personal, direct relationship with the higher power, the inner as well as the outer. These cloths are a sign of the vows taken in ordination.

My examples are derived, obviously, from a Christian context. I am sure there are similar examples in other religions and if you have some to share, please do.

As an aside, I also looked up devil's cloth, which surprisingly to me, turns out to be stripes. For more on stripes, see here.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Short Message From Our Sponsor (Before She Has to Get Back to the Garden)

Here are two recent thrift store finds. A linen tablecloth beautifully embroidered with bright flowers that I can hardly bear to actually put on the table - and judging from the lack of stains the previous owner felt the same way. But why devote hours of time and care and skill to an object that is never used?

I know, I know, a rhetorical question.

The assortment of Italian threads winked at me from the "Notions" drawer at the Sally Ann. They are an unusual hard twist cotton.

The island's feral sheep visted my yard on a misty morning last week. The lambs are cute, but the poor adults never get shorn, and are mangy and tick ridden as a result. Some people on the island call them Rastafarian sheep and think they're cool, but I bet these girls would be a lot more comfortable minus their matted, heavy coats. I know there are all kinds of special dreadlock products available, but have you ever seen a sheep wash its own hair?

And the azalea next to the deck has been blooming for a week, the hummingbirds are back, and there's way too much to do in the garden. I think it's officially spring.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Golden Jubilee

I am so pleased to report that the 50th anniversary sweaters were safely delivered to the honorees, Constance and Amworth Antonio. Here is a picture of the couple, wearing their new sweaters, with their son, Jean-Pierre, who commissioned them.

It was the first time I had met Jean-Pierre's parents, who proved to be a lovely couple indeed. I know JP has charted his own path in life, but he must have had pretty strong roots to be the solid, generous, talented, thoughtful and unique individual he is.

I am blessed to have a friend like him. Big hugs, JP!

And blessing to the Antonios, who celebrate 50 years together. I needed to draw on their example of patience, perseverence, creativity, faith and a sense of humour to make these sweaters. It was a great honour to be able to create these special garments for them.