Anders: Spinning Wisdom

Anders: Spinning Wisdom

“It is suggested in a legend that draws from the apocryphal Book of James that Mary as a young virgin spun scarlet thread for a curtain to adorn the temple—while Herod’s architects completely rebuilt the temple around her. In this imagined scenario, the acts of spinning and weaving are brought together against the backdrop of the construction of a holy sanctuary, all together symbolizing Woman enmeshed in her ideal Work.”  —Isabel Anders in Spinning Straw, Weaving Gold: A Tapestry of Mother-Daughter Wisdom (London: Circle Books, 2012). 


This resonant, compelling image of Mary conjures for us the “red thread” of life, a mix of blood and tears, that binds together wisdom and love—here embodied in a feminine personage: the one woman who made possible the Incarnation of Jesus the Word made flesh himself. 

She who reconciles the ill-matched threads

Of her life, and weaves them gratefully

Into a single cloth—

It’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall

And clears it for a different celebration.

—Rainer Maria Rilke.  (From Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. New York: Riverhead Books, 1996, p. 64.)

          Indeed, this is exactly what Mary did.

I previously explored the vibrant image of fire as wisdom in my book Becoming Flame: Uncommon Mother-Daughter Wisdom (Wipf & Stock, 2010). I now add to it several complementary, similarly hopeful images to which women have a natural affinity. For instance, L Maloney (in The Lost Coin: Parables of Women, Work, and Wisdom by Mary Ann Beavis; New York: Continuum, 2002, p. 24) offers this insight:

“Our work is contextual and concrete; it sees the ordinary and the everyday as the place where God is revealed; it takes place ‘in the house.’ It is hard work; it is a struggle to find what we are seeking in the darkness that has covered it for so many centuries. But it is also characterized by joy and celebration, and by hope: a hope that assures us that God is with us. God has her skirts tucked up and is busy sweeping and searching too.”

         —Guest post from Isabel Anders from her Introduction to Spinning Straw, Weaving Gold.