And He kept His promise. He came to gather us closer, to enfold us, to know the depths of His love. One way Christ expressed this love was through parables—particularly as referring to Himself as the Good Shepherd.
Sheep live in a fold. This is where they are gathered by a shepherd and protected.
Christ refers to Himself as the gate of this fold (John 10:1-18). We can pray with that passage alone and its many layers, but Athanasius adds more depth when he states, “[Christ] was not contained by anyone, but rather himself contained everything…arranging everything, and unfolding his own providence in everything to all things” (St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation).
The fold does not limit or prevent the sheep from grazing or living well but provides them endless abundance because they are near the shepherd who only desires their good and intends to give them all they need.
This wrapping and enfolding points to Christ’s mercy which was made tangible by the Incarnation.
We are so small and fragile in the vastness of the creation. We need to go to the Good Shepherd who will fill us in His fold.
Veronica was particularly inspired by the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Montessori activity which describes the folding over time to children: “We use the unfolding of a lengthy ribbon (la fettuccia) to show the continuation and unity of God’s Plan and to lift up the three moments: Creation – Redemption – Parousia. Looking back at how long the ribbon is and how far we have come, it also shows the vastness of God’s Plan and also the smallness of our place in our Salvation History.”
Realizing our own littleness requires a stripping, an unfolding, in which we begin to recognize our true selves.
The simplicity of a sheep or a child both represent this calling to littleness—to allow Christ to take us up in the folds of His mercy without resistance.
Folding, unfolding, bending, rending, mending, all to draw near.
So, as Christ takes us up into the folds of His mercy, we are undone. There is no room for selfishness or sin. We are purified, unfolded, and our true selves then emerge. The process of healing is simultaneously a bending and mending. It seems that the process might break the creature, but any good physician knows to only permit the least amount of discomfort or pain for a surgery.
A good shepherd knows how to bind up the wounds of his own sheep that tripped down a mountain; he will carry the creature to safety and treat the wound tenderly (unless the sheep struggles and resists against his master’s hand in which case it might not appear as tender-care).
May the folds of our clothing unfold our true selves—to reveal a piece of that heart which is healing. We are all healing over time as we seek and desire the bending, rending, and mending of our hearts. Each layer and fold of material parallels this enwrapping of grace, abundance of mercy through the Incarnation, and generosity of God’s providence in creation.
May we have the endurance to keep looking deeper into these little signs and symbols that are given to us. May we have the sensitivity to allow longing for our true fulfillment to be stirred up. Finally, may we have the courage to respond to our calling with eagerness as we realize it.