From Swaddling Clothes to Burial Cloths

From Swaddling Clothes to Burial Cloths


When my children were infants, I was instructed to swaddle the baby only on the night we returned home from the hospital. Things have changed in twenty some odd years. Today, new parents (my son and daughter-in-law), are instructed to swaddle the baby until….he doesn’t like it anymore; and they say, he’ll let you know when that is. They even have special swaddling wraps now. Back in the day, I could put stuffed toys in the crib and we were told to alternate the baby from side to side with each nap. No sleeping on the stomach or the back, just side to side. Not that either of mine slept much as infants, but that’s another story. Now days…No toys in the crib, or baby blankies; they nap on their back in the day, and are swaddled at night.


Now, what’s captivated me with my grandson, is how much he loves the swaddle. My son even knows how to do it. When I’m visiting, I watch him enfold the baby and when I’m back home he sends webcam pictures to my Iphone. There, in his sweet, warm, little crib, is this little baby bundle all in a bind, my grandson, asleep in perfect peace.


This Christmas Eve, as I looked at my grandson’s picture, I thought of Jesus in His swaddling clothes and how wise the women of Israel were. Even then, they knew this was best for the baby. One of my Scripture teachers instructing on the infancy narratives, said in addition to swaddling clothes giving a sense of security, some scholars say, the name of the tribe was placed as a seal on the clothes. Imagine what the shepherds thought when they came to herald the news they had heard announced by angels on the countryside, and fixed their eyes on the the Lord of the Universe, the Savior of the world, the Son of David, all bound up, not in a warm crib, but in a feed box; bound not because He needed security—- but because we did.

And because there was no room for Him at the inn.


It was all very prophetic of what was to come for this Divine child. Not only was He rejected for a room at birth, He was later to be rejected by His own people. It brought tears to my eyes as I looked upon my innocent swaddled grandson thinking, no knowing, that for Jesus, His swaddling clothes foretold altogether something else; something that reached beyond the care of any midwife, beyond the feed box in the cave in Bethlehem, past Bethsaida, Caesaria Philippi, Cana, Capernaum, Chorazin, Decapolis, beyond Gennesaret, Jericho, Nain, Nazareth, Sidon, Sychar, Tyre~ all the way outside the city gates of Jerusalem. The swaddling clothes reached all the way to Golgotha, all the way to the cross, where they once again wrapped His body after the Crucifixion.


I wonder if St John the Apostle– whose feast it is fitting we celebrate today– thought of the swaddling clothes when he ran to the empty tomb as fast as his feet could take him, after May Magdalene told them someone had taken the Lord.

There, Scripture tells us ~


{…} he bent down and saw the burial cloths, but he did not go in.

{…}When Simon Peter arrived ..he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,

and the cloth that covered his head not with the burial cloths…but rolled up in a separate place.

—John 20: 1a, 2:8

John had loved Jesus with great passion. He was the disciple ‘whom Jesus loved’ and it was at the foot of Christ’s Passion that Jesus gave His Blessed Mother to John and by grace to us; she who had once held her Divine Infant Son swaddled securely in her arms.

Mary didn’t need to see the burial cloths…she had already touched them.

So now we are left to interpret the scene; in essence to apply it to our own lives. We have seen Him in the manger, and in a few months we will come upon the empty tomb. From the swaddling clothes to the burial cloths..

I came to the manger this year with a question. Where is my security, Lord?

And He answered me this Christmas, while looking upon my grandson wrapped in his swaddle:


Your security, my daughter, is in wrapping yourself in the clothes that bound me at my birth and I loosed for you

in my death.

I am your Resurrection and your Life,

and my seal is upon you.


St John the Apostle, pray for us, Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.



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