Preparing for the feast of Corpus Christi

The Blood of Christ, Adriamycin
A quilt from the works of Ann Stamm Merrell (1951-1999): Living Outside the Lines
Materials: cotton, silk, wool, rayon, blends, commercial and hand-dyed fabric, photo transfer, Steve Harrington's tie, Stanford Hospital gown. Techniques: machine appliqué, embroidery, and quilting using single, double, and triple needles. The quilt was made in sections that were completely finished (batted, backed, quilted) before being sewn together. Ann tried to capture personal touches of what she had experienced during her chemotherapy treatments. Some of the texts for the photo transfer fabrics include: Bible quotes, an FDA data sheet on Adriamycin, a schedule of meals brought in by friends. Some were printed on one of her hospital gowns – a reminder from her all-too-many stays there.

As you prepare to celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ this weekend and as you read over the scriptures for the liturgy, your preparation will be enhanced by the image above of Ann Merrell's beautiful quilt and the story behind it, below. (I'd suggest that as you ponder the image of the quilt, you might listen to Leonard Bernstein's Meditation on the widget at the top of the sidebar.)

Ann's comments on this quilt (1995):
“In May 1993, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Part of my treatment consisted of the chemotherapy drugs Cytoxan (large white pills) and Adriamycin (a red liquid).

Included among the side effects of the chemotherapy were nausea, vomiting, total hair loss, low blood counts, loss of appetite and weight, extreme fatigue, breathing difficulty and the need for three transfusions and two hospital stays.

One Sunday during the course of this ordeal, I sat in church and took communion; and, in a moment of clarity, the similarities – the physical characteristics, the mechanism of healing, the potency, the purpose – between the chemotherapy agents and the body and blood of Christ became apparent to me.

This insight changed things for me, including my approach to ingesting the Cytoxan tablets, which were large and would bruise my throat. From that point on, prior to each dose I repeated the words of the Sacrament, ‘The body of Christ, broken for me.’

Additionally, the connections between the Adriamycin and Christ’s blood intrigued me.

Adriamycin, the red liquid being injected into my veins, was an extremely powerful and extremely caustic agent coursing through my body. Its potency and caustic nature, designed to eradicate as many cancer cells as possible, in order to save or prolong my life, also caused me considerable trauma and suffering.

Initially, the fact that Jesus’ blood and the drug are each a red liquid is what started me comparing them. Additionally, both have extreme potency, extreme power and strength. Those similarities seemed reasonable, but thinking of Christ’s blood as caustic was a new concept.

I began to picture the blood as a healing, cleansing agent, providing its benefits – in an almost Old Testament way - via fire and the sword, a caustic agent that flowed through me, destroying all evil/cancer in my mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical being. And since Christ had suffered to shed his blood, it was not surprising that I might suffer to receive its benefits.

Ultimately, the purpose of both agents was to save life, the difference being that the Adriamycin often worked and the blood always worked.”
Be sure to visit Living Outside the Lines and take a look at the back side of the quilt which is, in itself, another work of art. You can order the book by the same name here.


1 comment:

  1. I really loved this post! The quilt is so beautiful and the metaphor so interesting and apt. The caustic blood...really, in this secular society, following Jesus' teachings can have caustic effects and one does have to remember the eventual healing it brings.


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