The Prayer Shawl
It’s 4:30 in the morning. I ease myself out of bed, careful not to wake my husband. I get up, throw on my robe and pad out to the kitchen for my coffee. The hot liquid stimulant is as much a part of my ritual as any other aspect, and on some mornings, much more needed. At this hour the house is still and quiet. I can hear the clock tick and the refrigerator hum. This is my meditation and prayer time, before the sun rises, before the clutter of the day attacks my consciousness.
I like to open the curtains on the window so I can stare out to the sky. If it’s cloudless, I can see the stars. This week, I’ve been able to see Orion’s belt from my east-facing windows. I always hope to see a falling star, like a sign God is joining me, but I rarely do. It’s been cooler in the mornings, the chilled breath of fall seeping inside. I throw a blanket over my legs and settle in to "my chair" with my coffee mug warming my hands. Then I reach down for my prayer shawl, holding its sacred length tenderly.
When my son was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, we were cruelly launched into a whirlwind of appointments with specialists and life-altering conversations and decisions. One Sunday, when I felt like I was drowning in all the medical hoopla and worry, I grudgingly showed up for church, feeling more like hiding and skulking than "fellowshipping." Despite my furtive demeanor, a friend approached me. Catherine, dressed in a long skirt, peasant top, and sandals, walked up to me and handed me a small, brown bag, “I have to go to work, but I’m glad I caught you,” she said.
I smiled. Reaching into the bag, I pulled out a lovely crocheted scarf.
“It’s a prayer shawl,” she said.
I knew it was her creation; I’d seen her handiwork before. It was made of the softest of yarn, a lovely subtle green, like the color of lichen, with bands of purple and turquoise and mossy brown decorating it. I gasped. “Oh, it’s so lovely!”
“I hope it brings you comfort.” She smiled and gave me a hug before leaving.
Once home, I looked up the meaning and tradition of prayer shawls, sometimes called a mantle, peace or comfort shawls. Prayer shawls come from an ancient Jewish tradition, rooted in the Bible. The word tallit, the Hebrew word, is made up of two smaller words, tal meaning “tent” and ith meaning “little”. A prayer shawl is meant to be a hiding place with God, a covering and protection while praying.
According to the Shawl Ministry, green symbolizes the earth, healing, prosperity, fertility, clarity, sympathy, hope, renewal, health, balance, confidence, abundance, growth and life.
As I snuggle in my chair with my coffee and reading material, watching the sun awaken the sky, I finger the soft mantle, draping it carefully over my shoulders. It's leaf-like hue is appropriate for the many emotions and needs brewing in my heart and unsettled mind.
When I cover my shoulders in this shawl, I think of Catherine and all the friends who have reached out to us, and I feel wrapped, not just in yarn, but in sweet love and comfort. I feel their prayers.
As the yarn’s journey starts,
It becomes a prayer that comes from the shawl maker’s heart,
The yarn becomes a journey of silent prayer,
Through it’s twists and knots, the prayer is still there,
The quiet clicking or the swish of the yarn,
Tells you the prayer is still going on,
The Shawl maker adds on another skein,
The prayer is anew and doesn’t wane,
As time goes by and the shawl maker’s mind sometimes wanders,
The yarn goes on and prayerfully ponders,
A prayer is said and the stitching subsides,
The yarn comes to an end and is knotted and tied,
It begins a new journey and given with prayer,
It’s Hope, Faith and Love the recipient wears,
But in the silent echoes you can prayerfully hear,
The prayers, the quiet clicking, and the swish of the yarn,
The yarn never ceases and its silent prayers are still going on…