Samantha Klassen on her ongoing origami project
Dear saint benedict’s table community,
I’m writing to share some more words and photos of the liturgical origami art project that I have embarked on, to give you a window into the folding process of these paper prayers.
The process begins with a piece of paper, one each week. For this particular week, I experimented with linocut block printing to add colour and texture, and a dip pen to write out the Prayers of the People from the previous Sunday’s service. Then the paper was brought to the church for the Sunday service, and the congregation was invited to add prayers to the paper – a name, a phrase, a plea, a praise, or maybe a doodle. There was tremendous response as people entrusted their intercessions to the paper, and I was very moved to receive the paper back, with the sacred task of folding it in yet another expression of prayer. (To protect the privacy of those who participated, these photos do not show that side of the paper.)
Later in the week I begin the actual folding. When I first dreamed up this project, I anticipated that the folding itself would be the prayerful part, which it certainly is, but I have come to see that all the stages – decorating the paper, writing out the prayers, having others add their prayers, and folding – are deeply prayerful, and add layer upon layer of holiness to the paper. As you will see in the photos, those layers upon layers are themselves worked into the paper and into the form of the flower.
What I hope these photos will convey is the sense of interrelatedness – complication – of the planes of paper, of the written words, of the printed mandalas. I am more and more convinced in my studies that the good news of the scriptures is this: As creatures of God we are profoundly bound up with all other creatures and with Christ. We are fundamentally marked by community, not autonomy. Our sphere of belonging is our ecosystem, not our private consciousness. And my sense is that the process of this origami folding is a window into that relationality, a visible and tangible metaphor that can help us remember who we are.
The Scriptures are bursting with witnesses to this profound relationality. A beautiful passage in Colossians is an example. The text says that in Christ “all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (1:16-17). Notice how, in the continually enfolding form of the origami, “all things hold together”.
The text goes on to say that “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (1:19-20). Notice how the mandalas are alienated (1:21) in the unfolded paper, but become enfolded in one another, like broken relationships being reconciled. Notice the fullness and depth of the paper as different shapes and patterns emerge. Notice that which is pleasing.
Notice, also, the instances of “three” and “four”, which coexist in this form, adding to “seven”, the Hebrew number of Divine completion. Notice the intersection of geometry and poetry.
Notice the memory of the paper when it is unfolded, the way each individual step is partially present in the whole, and yet absent. Notice that being able to see all the creases at one time does not necessarily give one a clear picture of what is going on.
I want to say one last thing about prayer to tie this together before I leave you with the photos. In prayer, whether we express neediness or thankfulness, we acknowledge our relationality and dependence. Origami, prayer, liturgy, eucharist – these are all ways of remembering and reminding ourselves and each other that we are members of a body, an ecosystem, a universe of profound relationality. And when we pray, we are joining in prayer, as creatures in a global prayer circle of creatures, with others around the world, with those who have gone before and those yet to come, and with Christ, in whom all things hold together. If sin is broken relationships, then salvation is the mending of those relationships. Prayer, origami, eucharist, liturgy – these acts of faith that remind us who we are and draw us back again to each other – are marks of the salvation unfolding within our very community. Thanks be to God.
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” – Colossians 1:15-23
For those who were at the Lenten session on Wednesday, February 17, find a link to a good diagram and a video for the traditional paper crane by clicking here.