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Webs and their Symbolism

Article by Sr Meg SCL

Symbols are one of the major ‘tools’ in spirituality – they sometimes speak to us with greater ability to touch our hearts than words. They are often rich in suggestion, powerfully inspiring, challenging in new wisdom.

I have chosen a web for today’s symbol and you have already seen it on the flyers or posters.  Webs fascinate me, not just because of their sheer beauty but because I am in awe of so relatively small a creature as a spider having divine trigonometry built into its DNA. Have you ever seen a newly spun web that is imperfect?  Have you ever seen a mother spider teaching her young how to spin them?

Webs are amazing.  Their glory is enhanced by what comes from beyond themselves – early morning light that sets them sparkling; moonlight that shines through illuminating their intricate design. 

And there is the ultimate splendour that comes from bearing unsought weight – the morning dew, raindrops, frost and sprinklings of powdery snow.

Vulnerable and fragile as they seem, in the face of fierce wind, they neither try to withstand its strength nor back away from it  – but  yielding to its force, they balloon out like flimsy parachutes with each successive gust without ever losing their grip on their moorings. So seemingly fragile and yet so strong.

I am told that the spider engages in what is called spot welding.  As it begins to spin it welds some of the spokes to the wall or fence and then when it spins round the spokes it welds each thread to the spoke.   And furthermore, so an engineer told me, if it were possible to have steel rods as comparably thin as a spider’s thread, the steel would snap under the stresses put on it where the web survives. They look so fragile and yet have enormous strength partly because they have flexibility and give, whilst remaining firmly attached to their base, consequently they don’t break easily. There is a distinct toughness in their delicate beauty.

So, as we go through the day we may like to ponder the symbol in relation to our life.  What might it be clarifying for us? There is a web of fragility and glory in every human being.

This photo is obviously not of a new web – what in your reflections might those gaping holes be about, those broken and dangling threads?  What has made it so wobbly in places?  Is this web now useless since it can no longer serve its original purpose?  Does it still have beauty after it has been battered by time and age?  There still seems to be movement in it. What of that part of the web that seems simply to have disappeared totally.  There’s a sizeable absence up in the left hand corner. Is this a symbol of fragility or strength, or both?  Do they complement one another? 

And as we focus on Fragile Grace today we may understand a little more of those times in life when we felt most vulnerable and weak, when we had just sustained a very great loss, or a tragedy or have been overburdened and stretched in some way yet were somehow firmly held and given an enormous inner strength, a marvel of grace which took us to new places in ourselves and even enabled us to go beyond ourselves..

Some years ago, a teenage boy was killed for no reason other than that a gang of youths was out looking for trouble and this boy, walking home alone, happened to be black.  Afterwards his mother spoke on TV – and her face was truly beautiful in its pain and grief, for there was no bitterness, no tears, nor desire for revenge – only a heart-rending sorrow and a strange sense of peace. She wanted to forgive those who had robbed her boy of his one precious life. In fact I was reminded of the beauty of sorrow in a Pieta. 

She spoke so quietly, gently and movingly, without a trace of self-pity or desire for recrimination that her story hit the headlines.

She made an enormous impression on her many viewers, for she was on all the News Channels.  Her name was Gee Harper and out of all the possible recipients of one of the country’s greatest honours, she, Gee Harper, was voted ‘Woman of the Year’, not just because she was the mother of a murdered boy but because the public saw and wanted to salute the sheer strength and beauty of that fragile grace she had been given.

Weaver God, pick up the threads of our experiences. Craft beautiful and complex patterns out of the raw material of our lives.  Tend and protect the broken threads.  And in your time reveal in our webs significance and purpose.

Meg has written several books (as Sr Margaret Magdalen) which have been added to our  “Suggested Reading” list.

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