Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

Gospel in Glass, Lower Foreground I

In Christianity on August 17, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Today we continue to discuss the immense visual richness with which we are blessed as Catholic Christians. Most of our churches contain wonderful aids to holiness, including (at St. Mary’s Greenville) the stained glass altar window I’ve called the Gospel in Glass.¹ But the point here is not to extol this particular window. Rather it is to encourage all Christians to look for visual aids that promote growth in Christ.

We will “read” this window bottom to top, left to right. Let’s begin:

  • The focus in the window is Jesus Christ. In the center of the window is Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23). At the top, Christ risen and victorious (Hebrews 12:2-3, 1 Corinthians 15:54-57). We’ll return to meditate on the Savior in a moment. Everything in the window points to Christ! You’ll see that as we continue.
  • Now, allow your eyes to fall to the bottom of the window. You’ll see a figure is kneeling at the foot of the cross—with one arm embracing the cross of the Lord, the other supporting a bowed head. The posture appears not so much to be one of prayer, but rather of despair, not knowing what to do next.

Here, we must pause. Our purpose is meditation and growth in Christ, not simply to record the scenes depicted.

The kneeling figure is St. Mary Magdalene, who with Christ’s Mother and the Beloved Apostle, St. John, accompanied our Lord to the cross.

Have you ever felt utterly, absolutely crushed by events? Clearly, the posture of the Saint in the window shows us something like that feeling. So did the faces the two disciples to whom Christ appeared on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:17); their faces were downcast and sad. And so it is sometimes with us, when Christ—the great Shepherd of lost sheep—comes to seek out us and rescue us from our confusion and despair.

Praise God that like the Gospel itself, the whole conceptual sweep of this window from bottom to top preaches the blessed hope! “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).”Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). If you are burdened or in despair today, turn to Christ—Who invites you to cast your cares upon Him, in this Gospel in Glass!

¹ On St. Mary’s web site, the window is called “Crucifixion/The Risen Christ,” and a small photo is here.

Gospel in Glass, Introduction

In Christianity on August 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm

The richness of the Gospel can be presented many ways. As St. Francis said, “Preach always! Sometimes, even use words.” One very important way we preach the Gospel is to live Christlike lives.

The Gospel also can be preached visually, as churches did centuries before universal literacy became the norm.  In today’s word-based culture, we often fail to focus on the Gospel before us in the windows, mosaics, statuary, and icons of the Church.  Yet what riches the Church has preserved for us by providing visible aids to faith and holiness!

If you have the opportunity to be at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, SC, these notes in this series of posts summarize the Gospel in glass behind the altar, depicting Our Savior’s Passion.  More extensive discussions have been written about how to “read” a visual sermon¹ but for the purpose of our meditation upon the Gospel in St. Mary’s altar window, we’ll move from the bottom to the top, and from the foreground to the background.

So much encouragement, so much richness, so much of the Gospel appears in this window, it will require several postings to detail—particularly if we take time to meditate on the Gospel before us, not just to chronicle it.  I pray you’ll find this series of interest, even if you are not located near St. Mary’s. Developing an appreciation for the visual aids to holiness that The Church offers us is a wonderful reason for thanksgiving to God for calling us to life in Christ.

Truly, this is Christianity Richly!

¹ See, for example, Leonid Ouspensky and Vladimir Lossky, The Meaning of Icons.

² A collection of photos of St. Mary’s stained glass windows can be found here.  “Crucifixion/The Risen Christ” is the Gospel in glass.  I only wish there were a gloriously large, high-resolution image you could print, and use for meditation and prayer!

Catholicism in Washington, DC

In Catholic, Christianity on August 6, 2010 at 3:03 am

Last week, I was in our nation’s capital.  There weren’t many free hours until Saturday, when my wife and I set out mid-day to see as much as possible of the Church’s presence there.  A half-day is far too little time, but let me suggest some highlights, in the event you are visiting Washington this summer.

The 12:10 Mass at Old St. Patrick’s was our first stop.  This is the oldest Church in Washington, founded in 1794 for stonemasons who were working on federal buildings including the White House, a few block away. If you are downtown, walk over and have a look. Although mid-day Saturday Mass was relatively empty, the pastor was faithful about offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation for thirty minutes before Mass, and then spoke faithfully and well about St. Ignatius of Loyola.  He helped remind me of my connection to St. Ignatius through the books The Discernment of Spirits and Thirty Days.

Leaving St. Patrick’s, we drove to the Catholic University of America campus. CUA, as well as The Dominican House of Studies across the street, are both a bit quiet during the summer months.  However, that inactivity didn’t diminish our joy at visiting The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception!

I had driven past The Shrine on previous trips, but was not able to go in.  Having now done so, the Basilica is beyond words:  the chapels, the oratories, the majesty of the building itself, the mosaics, and more.  And when the organ began the prelude before Mass, you didn’t just hear the music; you felt it—it became part of you.  But the most wonderful part was to be able to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation there and then attend Vigil Mass.

Remember that these sacred spaces are part of our riches as Catholic Christians. They reflect the Incarnational basis and nature of our faith.  Fr. Dwight Longenecker just wrote a wonderful post on this topic—click here. Don’t miss the grace God gives us on our pilgrimages of faith, small and large.  They are an important part of Christianity Richly!