While praying the Rosary with a Catholic TV program, I was inspired by the idea of “helping Jesus carry his cross.” Then I thought, “No, it’s more like Jesus helps me to carry my crosses.” I had recently experienced a cruel insult, a deep hurt. I was in turmoil. Then I asked Jesus to help me to forgive the insulter.
The prayer was answered and I quickly returned to serenity. Even better, I was actually enriched and expanded rather than diminished by the experience.
The crosses we all have, taken to Jesus, make more room for God’s love and more space for us to grow. The hurts, difficulties, and challenges we encounter on the horizontal plane of life on earth are more balanced and resolved when they are held in place by our relationship with the Divine—what some call the “vertical” direction of our lives.
The Blessing of Balance
As I continued to meditate, the God’s eye craft I was preparing to write about came to mind. The God’s eye, a house blessing common to both Ireland and Mexico, is a cross with the vertical and horizontal pieces held together by colorful threads woven around them. As with all crosses, the horizontal piece represents our relationship and interaction with the world around us. Although this is often a source of satisfaction, it sometimes is a source of pain.
The other direction of the cross, the vertical piece that holds up the horizontal piece, represents our relationship with God, the Divine in our life. This relationship is at its best when we keep a balance between the two directions, when we let the Divine dimension (the vertical) hold up the earthly (our journey through this world).
The great psychologist Carl Jung said that life is made up of polarities and that we have to hang onto both ends of the pole, not letting go of either. We have to juggle and balance them. This is true with the earthly and divine directions in our lives as well. We have to work with both to keep them—to keep our lives—in balance. Some say this, indeed, is the cross.
In the making of God’s eyes, or “Ojos de Dios” in Spanish, the vertical and horizontal pieces of the cross are held in place with colorful yarns/threads. The threads symbolize practices that help keep a balance: prayer; reading Scripture and the stories of the lives of the saints; doing acts of kindness and service; seeing needs and helping others. These “threads” help balance the vertical and horizontal dimensions of life.
The Cross: A Joyful Symbol
As a Holy Week and Easter symbol, the threads of the God’s eye enrich the stark symbol of Jesus’ death. The cross becomes a joyful symbol of Jesus’ Resurrection.
In the Early Christian Church, Resurrection was the cross’ main meaning. It was never shown with a dying figure on it. From the start, crosses were covered with gold leaf and gems. The jewels were not cut with facets to reflect the light and create sparkles. Rather, they were smooth to reveal an inner depth and glow.
This was appropriate for a sign with the inner glow of faith thus honoring Jesus’ teaching: “The kingdom of God is within.” It gives depth and joy to faith at a time of the year when the cross is foremost.
The God’s Eye
Better than jewels, however, are the humble materials of Mexican and Irish crosses. In Ireland, straw was used to weave crosses so that every family could have one to bless its humble thatched-roof home. In Mexico, two sticks were used, a vertical and a horizontal. Yarns and threads woven through the sticks held them in place with an appealing pattern.
In Mexico, God’s eyes predated Christianity. The Huichol tribe (also the Aymara tribe of Bolivia) placed God’s eyes on altars. Priests and rulers told the people this meant that higher powers were watching over them, protecting them as they prayed. When a baby was born, the father would weave the central eye and then weave another eye on each extended branch of the cross each year until the child was five years old.
The Huichol gave the name Sikuli to their God’s eyes. It means “the power to see and understand things unknown.” While original Huichol God’s eyes are scarce, they still are crafted for tourists, marketplaces, and the walls of homes so that people know that God looks on them with love.
When Catholicism came to Latin America, this beautiful symbol was given the Christian meaning of the cross. Many American Christians today see the God’s eye—and the making of it—as a material symbol and sign of prayer, asking that its maker or the person to whom it is given be more closely bound to the love and law of God and to all God’s people. Psalm 119:18 is a good prayer to pray during the craft or during the blessing of God’s eyes. It reads, “Open my eyes that I may see the wonders of your law.”
Say to the Children
Today we are going to make God’s eyes, the kind of cross often made in Mexico. Mexican people put them in their homes to bless their homes and the people who live there and visit. They know that with the cross, Jesus brought great blessings into all our lives.
Because long ago, people were separated from God and getting into all kinds of troubles and miseries, Jesus came to bring us back into unity with our loving Creator. Through his cross, he opened for us entry into heaven—where there is no more suffering and death, only love, peace, and joy. Even while we are still living on this earth, represented by the horizontal part of the cross (point to the horizontal bar of a cross) we can still experience the goodness of oneness with God and heaven, represented by the vertical bar of the cross (point to the vertical bar of a cross).
Notice that the horizontal bar is supported by the vertical bar. Your life on earth works better—has more purpose, meaning, and happiness—when you allow it to be supported by your relationship with Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, Mary, and all the saints. They will help you solve your problems, fulfill a greater purpose, and make your journey through life more peaceful and full of love and joy. You will still have crosses to bear (Matthew 24-25), but growing in unity with God and Jesus will help you carry them well, just as the vertical (heavenly) bar carries the horizontal (earthly) bar.
As you make your own God’s eyes, you will see how the yarns and threads keep both bars in place with balance. Think of the threads as a symbol of all you do to unite your life with Jesus and God: your daily prayer, your weekly Mass, listening in religion class, seeing the needs around you, being kind and helpful to others. These efforts to grow in God, to live out your Baptism, will make life happier and richer and will fill it with color, beauty, and joy. Like St. Paul, you too will glory in the cross of Jesus (Galatians 6:14). Securing the two sticks together to form a cross can help you think about binding yourself closer to God and his goodness, love, joy, and happiness.
Resurrection—growing in unity with God and our true self, becoming one with our brothers and sisters in Jesus—is so wonderful that words alone can’t express it. We need the arts, the languages of music, dance, visual arts, and symbols such as God’s eyes to express the unconditional love of Jesus and his glorious cross. Think about this as you weave and work your God’s eye.
ACTIVITY: God’s Eye Craft
* straight twigs, sticks, skewers, straws (for the cross, two for each student)
* yarn, cord, ribbon, etc. (for the weaving)
1. Cross two sticks/twigs and tie them together at the center.
2. Tie another long piece of yarn to the center and weave it:
* over the front, back and behind, and over the front again of stick #1
* over the front, back and behind, and over the front again of stick #2
* over the front, back and behind, and over the front again of stick #3
* over the front, back and behind, and over the front again of stick #4
to see weave diagram)
3. Continue this weaving pattern until the yarn reaches near the ends of the sticks/twigs. Push the yarn together so the weave is close, but don’t pull too tight.
4. Tie on different colors for contrast.
5. Finish with tassels at the four corners if you wish.
: For younger children, put a dab of glue where sticks cross and allow to dry before weaving. Use a wire cutter to clip sharp points off skewers, and garden clippers to cut twigs.
: Add small bells with or instead of tassels at the four corners, or add another smaller eye at each of the four corners, as the Huichol fathers did for their children. These might represent all the loving people God sends to watch over us: angels, saints, parents, and all the good people in our lives. You may want to Google “God’s eye crafts” for more illustrations.
Hang finished God’s eyes around the classroom, dangle in windows, or pin up on bulletin boards. Let students take them home to bless homes and families, hang over beds, or sit on prayer tables. First, however, gather them in a basket or on a prayer table for a blessing.
God’s Eye Prayers and Blessing
Place on your prayer table an evergreen sprig and a dish of holy water (unless you prefer to bless by using your hand in the Sign of the Cross); a basket of students’ God’s eyes (or a solid-colored panel of felt to which you can pin each one); a Bible open to the first reading, with the other readings marked. You may want to include a candle, a large cross, a plant (a small palm is timely), a fine art print with a Passiontide theme, and/or a purple cloth.
: A Passiontide or Easter song, depending on season, or “O Spirit of the Living Lord” (text: Genevieve Glen, OSB © 1998, 2001, The Benedictine Nuns of the Abbey of St. Walburga; music: Ken Canedo © 2007, Ken Canedo; Breaking Bread, OCP)
: Loving Creator, thank you for our life on earth with all its possibilities and challenges. Thank you for Jesus, who came to redeem and restore earth and us to your glory. Help us to balance the challenges we meet with increasing awareness of your love. Whenever we look at our God’s eyes, or any cross, help us to remember that you are always ready to help us through all difficulties.
: Psalm 119:18 (open our eyes that we may see); 1 Corinthians 1:18 (the power of the cross); Acts 2:32; 10:39-41 (Jesus was raised up and exalted by God); Matthew 16:24-25 (we take up our crosses to follow Jesus)
: Many people see the horizontal beam of the cross as a symbol representing our relationship with the world and other people. They see the vertical beam of the cross as a symbol of our relationship with God. To maintain a balance in both beams, indeed, is the cross! The weaving of these God’s eyes could be seen as your effort to keep a balance in life, to do it with God’s grace, and to know the joy of resurrection and love.
: Loving Lord, bless these God’s eyes. May they help us to remember the mystery of the cross and the unconditional love we celebrate this Holy Week and Easter. (Bless the God’s eyes with an evergreen sprig and holy water or by making the Sign of the Cross. Also bless the students.) In Jesus’ cross and Resurrection, may we know a happy foretaste of heaven here and now, on earth, and unending joy and life in the world to come.
: “Lift High the Cross” (see internet: songsandhymns.org/hymns/lyrics/lift-high-the-cross)
Jeanne Heiberg is the author of
Advent Arts & Christmas Crafts (Paulist Press) and Advent calendars (Creative Communications). She has taught art, writing, creative catechetics, and meditation, and has directed parish catechetical programs. Jeanne writes, paints, and gives writing workshops in upstate New York.