During the time I served with NET Ireland in 2013-14 and NET Australia in Sydney 2015, I encountered historical churches with stunning architecture and brilliant spaces for touristy stuff but most importantly, prayer.
Praying in some of these most beautiful places is where I’ve had meditations and revelations, that I wanted to share that with you and how they came to be.
Of all the churches I had the privilege of seeing in my travels across Ireland and Australia, I definitely must say nothing catches my eye like a well-thought, beautifully constructed stained glass window, other than Our Lord of course.
Such detail, such depth of thought goes into each of these art pieces that it can be rather awe inspiring.
My initial reaction was a shallow, “Ooh pretty!” wanting to touch each one in my humorous ignorance, but when I delved more deeply into the detail and thought, it became apparent to me that each one tells a story. My reaction soon became a resounding, speechless, “Wow…”
The stories they told within each image were worth more than a mere thousand words.
Stories speaking of Christ’s life and his sacrifice to make us free. Stories that spoke of a Saints life and the dedication they gave to Our God.
Stories of an unknown Artisan and the blood, sweat, and tears they poured into the crafted window, not knowing their art would be displayed to glorify God and inspire others. Just like an artist creates a painting on a blank canvas with brush strokes and paint, a stained glass artisan creates brush strokes using pieces of glass.
Stained glass windows has been used in Catholic Churches and other buildings of prayer for centuries dating all the way back to the late 600’s. This is not a typo; stained glass has been around for almost 1400 years.
Before actual glass was used it was thinly sliced alabaster, decorated with ornate patterns giving it a stained glass look, but that is only talking about how old they are, not even the actual methods used to make a single panel.
There are steps and steps that are needed to create these wondrous works of art. First making the glass itself, usually done by someone else, and then it’s off to plan a panel of what it will look like, then cutting the glass, grinding it a perfect fit, painting (yes, specialized paint is used to create finer detail), assembly either with copper or lead, and then the mounting of the piece. All of these steps are made to create a stained glass window.
Whilst talking about the history is important, It’s not necessarily why I wrote this blog.
My first reflection is that stained glass is a representation of us; think of how the different pieces need to be measured, cut, grinded, and then fit into place. Eventually coming together to be assembled to make a piece of art.
Let’s put this into perspective. If everyone in the world were a pessimist (not saying pessimism is bad) the entire world would be a rather negative place. On the flip side if everyone is optimistic there would be no realistic views of the future. If everyone were exactly the same, it would be just plain boring.
That is why God makes us different.
So we can have that joy of being ourselves, exactly how God wanted us to be. That being said this corresponds to our purpose as well. We all have a purpose and it will always be different to the person sitting next to us. Exactly the same as in stained glass, it has a variety of shapes and colours and detail that meld into a bigger picture for a purpose.
2. God is our Maker, but he is also our Light. That was my second reflection. Since stained glass is best seen with light shining through, one can relate it to how the Body of Christ best shines when Christ is shining through it. He is the light, we are the glass.
Often we get caught up in life and sin, sometimes we feel like we’re in the dark and in a hopeless situation. For me going into the church, seeing the tabernacle or seeing a mural of stained glass I’m reminded of His Light, and hope is brought back into my heart.
Chris Tomlin’s, song, ‘Marvellous Light’ has the lyrics,
“ Into marvellous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame.”
Now, I’m not running into any windows causing a ruckus, but I am reminded to run to Him. He pierces my darkness and my sin with His Light and I am able to run to Him without being held back. At times I wasn’t letting Him shine through me, which was why I was feeling alone, and in the dark. The darkness is, something I don’t want to return to so I focus on the Light.
These reflections are ones that surface when I reflect on ANY piece of stained glass, many different panels or roses (as the round ones are called) have different topics to reflect on in themselves. I could drone on, and on, and on, and on about different reflections I’ve had.
But the last thing I’ll share is that spiritual reflection, is usually personal. Stained glass, helps me with it. I’m sure many people have had different revelations of stained glass in the past and I hope more people now view stained glass windows with new lenses.
PS: Why would Esmeralda in the cartoon version of Hunchback of Notre Dame be shown with South Rose Window of Notre Dame? Food for thought.