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.