When in Southern California in 2005 our family visited the Getty Museum and saw a travelling exhibit, “Painted Prayers,” which was a collection of Books of Hours from the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. Books of Hours were hand painted manuscripts to guide prayers of devotion to the Virgin Mary. These books were for use by laypeople, for personal domestic prayers.
This illustration is taken from a Dutch book of hours made for Catherine of Cleves, in about 1440. In this miniature Catherine is at the foot of the cross, praying to the Virgin Mary, who in turn is imploring her Son on the Cross. Catherine’s devotion of seeing herself in the picture of the women at the foot of the cross reminded me of the spiritual; – “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” – which is sung on Good Friday.
Many Christians identify themselves/ourselves in Bible stories. I think Mrs. Butterworth saw herself and her family in the beautiful windows, and we are offered an opportunity to see our efforts in the restoration of the windows.
What stood out to me were the seals in the border surrounding the illustration. They reminded me of quilt patterns. When I got back to Rock Island I consulted with the quilting group at the church. One woman, Charlene, immediately identified “crazy blocks.” And stars as well.
I got a little tingle at the back of my neck at the continuity of women’s domestic devotion to God that has spanned at least 600 years of continuity from Utrecht to Rock Island. Books of Hours were used by women in the home. And part of devotion is ‘the work of our hands.’
Rev. Michael Swartz