Saturday, December 22, 2007

Swaddling Clothes

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7)

swad·dle [swod-l] verb, -dled, -dling, noun
–verb (used with object) 1. to bind (an infant, esp. a newborn infant) with long, narrow strips of cloth to prevent free movement; wrap tightly with clothes.


As a father of small children, I can testify that newborn babies love to be swaddled. I imagine the womb is a tight spot in those last couple of months and swaddling reminds them of home.

A fine example of swaddling is shown in the nativity icon (upper left).

Some have observed that swaddling clothes and death shrouds, as shown in the burial icon (right), have a similar appearance. "And taking him down, he wrapped him in fine linen, and laid him in a sepulchre that was hewed in stone, wherein never yet any man had been laid" (Luke 23:53). The swaddling clothes, then, prefigure the burial shroud; they remind us why He was born.

When my father was dying, he said to my newborn son, "You're coming and I'm going, but there are similarities between us."



Among the aberrations of Western religious art are images of the Infant Jesus like this:

Those are not swaddling clothes. He's gonna have those loose rags off in 30 seconds, then He'll be naked and cold. But, then, Italians have some kind of fascination with naked baby boys, filling their churches with putti masquerading as cherubs. Libera me, Domine.

2 comments:

Karen said...

Hi John,

This was very informative.. had never heard of this before.

A Merry Christmas to you-- Christ is born!

Dusty M Brahlek said...

Wow, yet another one for the Easterners... :) or at least you.

I have always wondered what "Swaddling" was... then again I never really cared enough to look it up. I just figured it was clothing they put children into. Such as now it would be that bag like thing that ties at the bottom.

I also never saw the icon or anything like what you showed (or if I did I was not paying attention).

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