It’s good to share resources from other cultures, and denominations. When we look into their meaning sometimes they help us to reflect on our own faith. Although these resources might not be part of our own tradition or something we want to embrace into our ways. At least if we come to them with an open mind they might enthuse our faith.
As we approach Lent I would like to share with you what I have discovered about Hunger Tuchs or Hunger Cloths.
Many years ago I came in contact with what I would argue was the best of the Misereror Hunger Cloths, produced by an artist from Haiti and called the Tree of Life. You may have seen it hanging in other churches.
There have been a total of seventeen Hunger Cloths produced since their inception in 1976 in Germany. Usually a new cloth is produced every second year. The cloths are produced by the relief and development arm of the Catholic Church in Germany known as “Misereor”. The cloths are usually composite pictures representing images and stories from the Bible and reflections of the issues that the artist is in touch with and concern world need. These “Hunger Cloths” are hung in churches during the season of Lent.
The history of the hunger cloth in Europe dates back to over a thousand years. During Lent a cloth would be hung like a curtain between the altar and the congregation, mostly with a small screen through which the elevated host and chalice could be seen at the consecration. This was to symbolise separation between God and his people. As a result the congregation would begin hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Over the years these cloths became more ornate and would be painted or embroidered with Biblical images. Gradually the clothes became smaller and eventually became altar covering cloths and covers for crosses or artwork.
Today’s Hunger Cloths are normally hung much higher and in a different place so as not to obscure the view of the altar. They also have a more modern approach. Instead of hiding something, they reveal something. Instead of creating hunger, they reveal hunger in many parts of our world.
For example, the 2007 cloth was painted by a Chinese artist, Li Jinyuan and represents scenes from the Sermon on the Mount but also embodied China’s physical and spiritual hunger.
Last year’s picture was actually three pictures in one. It focused on Global climate change. One picture focussed on where the world might end up, then a picture portrayed God’s creation, and finally a picture of the ‘Easter light’ recreating the world.
Where will your mind be drawn to this lent? What images of world need will inspire you to reflect on how our Christian faith can and should reach out to others? May we together, hunger and thirst after righteousness.