Anglican General Synod

Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

Te Hāhi Mihinare ki Aotearoa ki Niu Tīreni, ki Ngā Moutere o te Moana Nui a Kiwa

The Woven Flax Cross - Te Ripeka Whiringa Harakeke

by Archbishop David Moxon

I am told that in some Maori circles, the art of weaving is a symbol of the way in which the most fundamental life forms are knit together, evolve and grow. For example, when one flax strand is held in the hand ready to be criss-crossed with another flax strand, the weaver says to herself "aroha atu", meaning "the love that goes forth". When the second flax strand is held in the other hand and placed across the first strand, the weaver says to herself "aroha mai", meaning "the love that comes back". The spirituality being described here is that as love is sent out, so it returns to the sender: love given and love received are the full meaning of love itself; love always builds up. New life shapes and life forms emerge in the dynamic of love given and love received.

So, the emerging kete, or woven flax bag, that is created by way of the interweaving of flax strands becomes a living sign of the way love creates. The creation of the bag itself means that it becomes useful for carrying and sharing food and other treasures between a community of people. The kete exists to serve a common good and becomes a practical and domestic sign of the way love serves, which is, of course, the very nature of God and the greatest of all things. It was the spirituality implicit in this kind of image that led to the logo of our church here in the South Pacific.

The artist, Ross Hemara, was asked by the Anglican Church to design an indigenous cross, picking up strands from all three Tikanga of the church in these islands. The woven flax cross, Te ripeka whiringa harakeke, was chosen as the first work of art in our prayer book and has become a sign of being Anglican in these islands. At the centre of the woven cross pattern is the koru, a sign of life. The koru is presented in red, a sign of life blood, of the life giving love which flows through the heart of the Christian message and Christian mission. The design presents the flax strands moving outwards, symbolising the life patterns of the Gospel being formed in a new creation.

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