The idea for this tapestry came from I’m not sure where. But I do remember imagining a chalice touched with the fire of the Holy Spirit, and wondering what that might look like. From there I worked at the shape and colour of the chalice and decided it should be large, generous, dominating the scene, worked in small half cross stitch, but qualified and enriched by other images, particularly fire and another appropriate symbol of the Spirt. I considered olives for their oil, used in anointing, and one of the biblical emblems of the Spirit. The dove, however, was obvious, and its connection with Jesus’ baptism, and with the creation story, confirmed its place above the chalice.
I also considered grapes, signifying the wine of the Eucharist but decided to make the wine dominant within the chalice, and close to a small portrayal of the cross. Thus the coming of the spirit in flames, the wine of the new covenant, the cross as the place of reconciliation, and all this set in a field of wheat with flowers, signifying both the bread of the Eucharist and the beauty of creation.
The flames were worked entirely at random with the colours chosen as I went along. The colours were deliberately strong and much more diverse than red and yellow flames. There seemed no reason that the flames at Pentecost should be limited to human perceptions, so the colours express the diversity of creation, the multiplicity of the work of the Spirit and the infinite possibilities of the creative, purposive and redemptive work of God.
The dove is white, a deliberate attempt at both emphasis and differentiation. The contrast between the wild power of the top half, and the much more ordered fruitfulness of the harvest field in the bottom half is an intended effect, though it was not what I first intended. It was trying to solve the problem of bread and wine that pushed me towards wheat and then my early years in the country and corn fields spangled with flowers suggested small, bright and understated beauty in the midst of the Eucharistic grain.
The borders have become virtually a signature element in my tapestries. The allusion to the rainbow does not follow the colour spectrum but makes visible diversity and harmony, difference and complementarity. The inner gold is both light and the life sustaining fruit of sunlight, grain, and bread; the single red line around the border is evocative of the wine of the Eucharist, and the redeeming love that surrounds the whole of Creation.
The entire work is an experiment in theology, a prolonged meditation on two theological realities which give definition and imagination to Christian living – the Holy Spirit and the Eucharist. I am expecting that this tapestry will mean more to me than to most others who might look at it – not only because I did it and therefore have much already invested in it; but because I am genuinely curious about the relationship between what we do at Holy Communion, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit who in Johannine theology, takes of the things of Christ and makes them known to us.