(32” x 45”; based on Luke 23)
Excerpts from Luke 23:
A third time Pilate said to the people, “Why, what evil has this Jesus done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted…..
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with Jesus. When they came to the place that is called Golgotha (or, The Skull), they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing.
And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.
I save bits and scraps of fabric from other projects, and not too long ago, I was going through this basket of leftovers. I pulled out some pieces that formed themselves into three color-families of crosses: one cross with flowers and a basketweave that reminded me of the crown of thorns, one cross in greens with a sheer fabric rectangle containing a stem of a plant, and a third cross of purples and blues. These three “cross families” of fabrics led me to ponder Good Friday and the three crosses at the crucifixion.
Good Friday. Re-read all the crucifixion accounts in the Gospels sometime and you will see variations in the stories. I discovered that only Luke has the story of the “repentant” and “unrepentant” thieves. In Matthew and Mark, the two robbers both join in the mocking of Jesus; in John, there are two others who are crucified with him, but they are neither identified by crime nor do they interact with Jesus. I also found that traditionally, the repentant thief is on Jesus’ right, and that most crucifixes show Jesus with his head leaning to the right, supposedly signifying his blessing on and acceptance of the one who repented.
After I fused the cross scraps to simple muslin, I began thinking about the hill of Golgotha, the stormy skies dark from noon to three, the earthquake and the tearing of the Temple curtain. A variety of gray fabrics are strip-pieced for half of the hill and fused “shards” of these same fabrics on black make up the side of the hill under the unrepentant thief. The two sides of Golgotha are broken by an upsurge of under-layers of the earth.
Ponder the “feel” of the three different crosses: there is a promise of life within the Christ cross, a sense of growth and promise within the cross of the repentant thief, but the cross of the unrepentant thief is broken, angular, angry, unresolved….at least at this point in time. But I don’t feel that this moment in time was necessarily the “end” for that unrepentant one. Notice the red threads going down from the Christ cross into the earthquake-broken earth. Those mean, for me, that the life of Jesus was also given for that unrepentant one — and is still there for him…. always…. as well as always for us…. no matter what….
A question for each of us might be: What cross represents our lives at this moment? Do I choose to live – even in times of suffering – with hope and promise within? Or, do I choose to stay in some angular, angry, chaotic and unresolved place?
All three crosses are attached to the gray-skied background with embroidery thread, and a few beads embellish the Christ cross. Movement of the turbulent air is free-motion quilted into the gray sky.
From noon to three in the afternoon, Luke says, darkness came over the land and the sun’s light failed. The clouds are outlined and couched in black yarn and swirl in stormy and ominous silence. A layer of black-netted tulle covers clouds, sky, crosses, and reaches down over the earthquake-broken hill. The tulle is torn and ripped up from the earthquake toward the bottom of the Christ cross, just as the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Some strips and pieces of the torn curtain dangle from the bottom of the quilt.
In his last incarnated act, Jesus commended his spirit to God and breathed his last.We ponder, we pray, we sit and watch silently at this place-of-the-skull: Golgotha.