It was during Lent of last year that I found myself reflecting on aspects of the Passion narrative and details I’d previously given little thought to. I pondered why all three Synoptic authors had deemed it vital to include in their text, as Jesus breathed his last, that ‘the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.’
Because curtain is often translated in the bible as veil, I had envisaged it to be made of fragile muslin material associated more with a head covering cloth. In fact, I discovered from the book of Exodus that the curtain was made of a heavily woven blue, purple and scarlet fabric, which, far from being of a flimsy material, measured several inches thick and of a huge size! This detail altered my appreciation of the significance of this important text.
Now we know that the temple in Jerusalem was at the heart of religious life. And central to this, the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies, the place of Gods presence. But key to this was that it separated Gods presence from the human space. However, once a year, on the Day of Atonement, through the blood of animal sacrifice offered by the high priest in the holy sanctum, mankind’s sin could be atoned for. Symbolically, the rending of the curtain represents Christ’s broken body mediated directly for us with our Heavenly Father.
I reflected how I might convey through my glass work some of these symbolic aspects of the Passion narrative, allowing the selection, cutting and copper foiling of the coloured glass speak……..deliberately avoiding painted detail or embellishment.