Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Stained glass windows

After dropping Joe off at work this morning, I went for a walk along the river and then stopped off at the Cathedral. It is not really that much bigger than a parish church so how it gets to be called a cathedral I am not sure. (That’s a shocking confession from a RE teacher!)

I like stained glass windows. A friend of mine bought a house a number of years ago. It was in a bad state of repair, so he got grants to help with renovations. In one of the bedrooms there was a round window. He had a special stained glass window made of a ship or a sailing boat tossed about on the waves. When he went into the bedroom to admire the window, he discovered that they had put it in upside down. They had not recognised what the picture was and just assumed it was a pretty pattern!

When we were in Durham Cathedral a few years ago, they had some very modern windows portraying all the different trades or guilds in Durham. The ones in the Inverness cathedral were just your run of the mill depictions of the life of Jesus. There were four windows on each side of the building, apart from the ones in the chapels. Each window comprised of two separate panels side by side. They covered the annunciation of Jesus’ birth, up to his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. May be the crucifixion and resurrection were depicted elsewhere.

As soon as I worked out that these eight windows were the life of Jesus, I began guessing which bits. One pair had me a little mystified – one the right hand panel was Jesus reaching down to a man half lying, half sitting on the ground. I figured it was Jesus because he had a halo. On the left hand panel was what looked like Jesus giving a drink of water to a man who was draped across his knees. Again, it was the halo that made me think it was Jesus. I did a trawl through the memory to match it with a gospel story. I couldn’t come up with anything that fitted, and finally read the words at the base of the window – “He showed compassion”. It wasn’t Jesus at all, but the parable of the Good Samaritan. The halo threw me!

I liked the thinking behind one pair of windows. On the left hand panel was the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was surrounded by people. He seemed to be holding what looked like a bible in his hand. Underneath the window were the words “Blessed are the pure in heart”. The next panel was one of the Transfiguration. Moses was easily identifiable by the tow ten commandment stones he held in his hand. Elijah got to hold and unrolled scroll with his name on it, just in case people were wondering who he was. James, Peter and John were at the bottom, looking freaked out. The sentence beneath the window continued “For they shall see God”. I liked the balance of the two pictures and the illustration that, yes, we do get to see God. Jesus at His transfiguration was as God as he could get at that moment. All the “man” part of him took a step backwards to allow all the “God” part to be revealed.

I discovered a book in my efforts at spring cleaning. "Discipleship" by David Watson, has wonderful chapter on life in the Spirit. He says that trying to explain what life in the Spirit is all about is like someone trying to describe the stained glass windows of a church to someone standing on the outside of the building. No matter how eloquently you describe them - it is only by being inside that you really get it. Until we step into God's Kingdom by being born again we cannot see spiritual truths but are blind to them.

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