A New Kind of Cloth

Legend has it that silk was invented by Chinese Empress His Ling Shi, wife of Emperor Huang Ti, about 3000 BC. One story has her sitting down with a cup of tea, when a cocoon fell right into her cup and began to unravel. Another story has her investigating the cause of some damage to mulberry bushes, whence she discovered the worms eating the leaves. From here she tried spinning the threads, invented a loom and eventually the first silk garments were created. Silk was not only used for clothing but also for paper and fishing line. (Did you know that silkworms eat only mulberry leaves?)

silk worm cocoon (source: wikipedia)

The Chinese kept the silk-making a secret for a long time, and the Ancient Romans were willing to pay a high price for this special fabric. Trading with China led to a 4,000 mile trade route called the Silk Road. This was the length people were willing to travel for this precious fabric.

Chinese painting on silk, with playing children wearing silk clothes, by Su Hanchen (active 1130s–1160s), Song Dynasty. (source: wikipedia)

I read, though, that not one group made the entire journey all the way, but that the goods were passed from group to group along the long route, with the middle-men along the way profiting nicely, and also preventing direct contact between Ancient Romans and the Chinese.

Women striking and preparing silk, painting by Emperor Huizong of Song, early 12th century (source: wikipedia)

Eventually the secret leaked out, and India, Persia, then Italy also began making their own silk. China today is the world’s largest silk-producer followed by India, and silk is still considered an expensive, luxury fabric.

As Jesus walked among men, after the resurrection, transcending beyond walls and doors, he wore a different kind of garment, as he left behind his own “…linen cloths lying there and the handkerchief that had been around his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.” (John 20: 6-7). His physical clothing was replaced with something that allowed him to transcend the physical boundaries of space that confine us. The angels who stood next to the tomb, too, are described as wearing “shining garments” (Luke 24:4)– although there are other example in scripture of angels and their shining appearance.

This fascination with silk garments in human history is an example of our desire for beauty and a reflection of our Divine Maker, implanted in us. Any predisposition to an object of beauty is a longing implanted by Him. If our inner longing is for beauty, which is but a reflection of the immortal and the glory of Christ, then the beautiful things we see of this world will undoubtedly appeal to us, like silk. The sparks of light and the shininess appeal to us because these are mere shadows of the real beauty of Heaven.

I turn back to the day in Eden, when they sinned… and “He made for them garments of skin” (Gen 3:21). And later in scripture, of a clothing miracle — that in all their wanderings during those 40 years, the Israelite’s clothing or shoes did not wear out (Deut 29:5).

But, “meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling. Because when we are clothed we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with or heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corin. 5:2-4)

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corin. 15:20), so while we wait and live in these earthly tents and coverings, we have a new cloth that is woven for us, an entirely new garment, one that cannot be destroyed or corrupted, one that is “immortal and imperishable” (1 Corin. 15:53-54); we have Christ himself:

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Gal. 3:27)

And for the firstborn son himself, the description of his clothing is thus:

He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. (Rev. 19:13)

On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Rev. 19:16)

The Silk Road (4,000 miles) source: wikipedia

The lengths traveled by Ancient Romans, the lengths Jesus went to provide us with a cloth of righteousness… what length am I willing to go?

From garments of skin, to silk, to Christ himself … from the garden’s shame of sin removed, to a holy glorious covering… from dust and deadly DNA, to a Holy covering of Him… how deeply we are loved, how beautifully we are covered.


Sharing with: Ann at A Holy Experience- Walk with Him Wednesdays:

Sharing with Emily at Imperfect Prose:

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24 thoughts on “A New Kind of Cloth

  1. I loved how beautifully you wove together those different scripture passages with the theme of cloth. Thanks for the thoughtful reflection on history and faith… I loved this!

  2. When I was in grade school, I used to own silk worms as my “pet” :). Almost every student raised them. I put them (5-8) in the pencil box and fed them with mulberry leaves. When many worms ate leaves at the same time, I could hear the chewing sound. Every kid loved to hear that sound. Then when worms were very fat, they started to make silk cocoons. I enjoyed seeing every single fine threat came out of their mouth. Very fascinated! Later they flew away once became a moth. Then I went back to school to ask for more babies from friends. Now I feel gorse to touch them :(. Once I wanted to raise silk worms for our homeschool project, but we don’t have a mulberry tree around us and kids also don’t want to have “worms” either.

    1. How interesting and unique (and wonderful) that you had silkworms as a pet! Not many people could say that! I’m fascinated by that. Thank you for sharing… and I’m with you, I wouldn’t want to touch them, either. :)

  3. smiles. this was a truly uplifting post and i thoroughly ejoyed the journey through the garments…and thanks for those reminders in your close…

  4. This was beautiful. I remember author Elisabeth Elliott described the aging process, with all of its indignities, as the final undressing before we are clothed in immortality. I like that and think it fits with what you’ve written here. Lovely to meet you. Blessings.

    1. That is such a beautiful perspective, I so appreciate that. It is something not only to carry me with me, but also something I can share… it makes me think of my mother. Thank you. Lovely to meet you, too!

  5. Lovely! Things of beauty really do touch the heart and I like your explanation of why. Another scripture that this made me think of was the verse about the lilies of the field clothed in more splendour than Solomon…

    1. I love the verse you mention above– just love it… how beautifully the flowers are clothed, more than what Solomon wore, more than any earthly garment! Gives such a definition to beauty, different from the world’s. Thank you, Kati!

  6. wow… i’ve always been fascinated with my beauty-addiction :) wondering why i seek out beauty in the world, and this really helps me understand, and appreciate it, as a soul-seeker longing for heaven. powerful post friend.

    1. I love how you say that– beauty-addiction! As a fellow soul seeker also longing for heaven, your comment helps me to see that– our longing for beauty is really our longing for heaven, too–thanks, Emily!

    1. Glory to God… I am learning as He teaches me, so many lessons I am in need of, and I am blessed you found it inspiring! Thank you, Michelle.

    1. I feel blessed that you found this inspiring and uplifting! You are very gracious in your compliment! Thank you, Adriana.

  7. our longing for and attraction to beauty is a reflection of our longing to see Him…how encouraging and affirming I find this. And the weaving of the story of the Silk Road was fascinating.
    PS. Yes I got my verse in, how about you? Are you keeping up? I’ve totally been ignoring my current verse. Need to get on it.

  8. Once we were clothed with sin and shame but now after recieving the gift of righteousness through Christ Jesus we have been clothed with the glory of God. How beautiful is a man that keep his garment from stains.
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