the stewardship of linen-folds


This is a piece of glass which has been placed between the insulated window panes of a glass window over the sink in the sacristy.  Whirling around the sacristy to find a chalice or grab a towel, it would be easy to miss, but my friend Diane pointed it out to me like a sea shell found on a beach during a walk – a wonderful treasure perhaps you have yet to have seen.

The artist was commissioned by a congregant whose love of the sacristy and of the work which goes on there to set altars, clean linens and polish diver and brass, was profound. The glass of the architectural art work is folded gently and frosted so that it has the look of a piece of linen.  The art represents the grace and beauty of the work done in that room by faithful women not unlike the ones who arrived at the tomb with spices after Jesus’ death.  “The job must be done.  We are ready to work.  No one will see what we do but they will see its results when the silver is lifted up high over the altar.  The silver will gleam.  The linen will be smooth.”

I love that the artist has placed a medallion of clear glass in the folded glass linen and placed a cross within it.  If I were the head of altar guilds in the Episcopal Church, this would be our logo.

When I begin my sabbath-day (fridays) it always starts thursday night (as a feast always does with sunset the night before!) with the folding of the sheets.  I wash my sheets and dry them with a bag of lavender in the dryer.  I then make my bed and am careful to smooth out the sheets and stretch things tight.  I fluff the pillows and turn back the bed the way my mother used to do in two triangles of welcome to rest.  The little ritual of making my bed with cleaned sheets includes considering the week past.  Where have I failed?  Where have I succeeded? What might I do differently next week?  With each stretch and fold of sheet I think about what my life was like this past week.  I welcome deep rest on my sabbath-day-off.  I make my bed the way Liz sets the altar – deliberately, gently, carefully, kindly and with a reverence which echoes the care taken with the Ark of the Covenant – a holy thing of some danger.

When I see this folded linen glass art in the glass window of the sacristy, my mind goes back and forth between the work of holy things in church and the rest of a holy body at the end of a hard week.  I am an American.  Rest does not come easily to me.  But I know that when God made it in creation and then named it “Holy” in the making of it (Genesis) that God was sanctifying both work and rest.

Linens are folded for a dinner with friends as napkins are placed by a hostess gently.
Linens are folded for a dead body in Iran as the funeral prayers are being said.
Linens are folded by an altar guild volunteer who sets the credence table.
Linens are smoothed as a bed is made for the nuptials of newlyweds or the death of a cancer patient.
Linens are folded on our laps for a dinner of bread and wine and lamb curry.
Linens are folded on an altar for a meal of bread and wine and the Lamb of God.

And life goes on.  With its smoothness and its occasional folds.

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