Tuesday 29 September 2015

Our Lady of the Window-A Vision

stained glass shadow.jpg

The declining sun lit up her sweet-sad smile, the folds of her blue mantle glowed softly. Below, the stone-flagged nave was dappled with multi-coloured shadows. For over a thousand years her delicate, fragile eyes had looked benignly on the people who passed backward and forward through her Son’s cathedral.

Many of these had scurried across the shaded space ignoring her. Others, half-aware of her presence and of her beauty had snatched hasty glances at her. Occasionally one or two individuals had stopped as if transfixed and had drunk their fill of the gifts of light which flowed through her and into the hearts of each woman or man who would accept them.

There was no one upon whom she did not smile; the empty headed and the wise, the ambitious and the contented, children of the pharisees, heirs of the Apostles. If the smile did not benefit each equally the fault lay not with the giver but with the recipient. People who will not be smiled upon will walk in a gloom of their own making.

Over that same thousand years too she had gazed upon the altar at the Eastern end of the nave. There the life, death and resurrection of her beloved Son had daily been made present in the midst of a mostly indifferent world. A spiritual truth become visible, like herself, under the veil of material forms. She did not weep at the sight, her weeping was done. Now her eyes were forever fixed on Him and would be though altar, window and cathedral should pass away into destruction.

In the city behind her as in the church before her much had happened since the first sunset had lit up her first smile. Crowned heads had risen and, quite literally in some cases, had also fallen. Fields had turned into factories, shepherds had become hirelings. Revolutions and wars, baptisms and marriages, martyrs and their murderers all had now slipped into the irrecoverable past. Sometimes the sound of cannon-fire had been heard, bombs too had fallen from the skies. In their houses the people of the city had trembled. Amongst them, some few in every generation, had been those who trembled more for her than for themselves. Hearing the explosions they had called to mind her delicate tracery, her thin, ancient, finely crafted glass. They knew how easy it was to destroy beauty, how difficult it was to create it, how impossible to restore it.

These few were the ones who had discovered the great secret, the window of our Lady was also a gateway. She was a channel who conveyed light to them and from them. She was more than the sum of her parts, the unmatched craftsmanship of medieval artisans, the materials of the builders, the vision of the Gothic architects, just as the light she conveyed was more than mere radiance from the sun. Anyone standing in the blue shadow of her mantle who turned dappled eyes towards her, accepting her gifts, found themselves lifted out of time and into eternity. That light from heaven transformed itself into heaven’s light within which flowed back through the gateway to its divine source. They became, if only for a moment, mirrors reflecting back the perfection which reached into them. And because the source was generous and gave abundantly when they left the window behind them they too became channels pouring out light to their neighbours in the form of selfless acts of love.

Our Lady of the Windows had sisters and because fragility and vulnerability was a necessary part of their beauty and usefulness some of these sisters had been shattered. Men marching beneath black flags or red ones had smashed them in the name of God or in the name of No God and they had vanished from the world forever. Yet the divine purposes had not been frustrated, He has many channels by which His light might be conveyed. But woe to those by whom that destruction has come. The gates which they have closed have been their own gates, their own path from darkness. They have locked themselves into their own dungeons. Woe to those who prefer ugliness to beauty, anger to gentleness, destruction to creation. They walk in hell already and it is a hell composed of their own hatefulness.

There are times when our Lady of the Window is clothed with the sun and there are times when she is crowned with the stars. She is a daughter of light, a dispenser of light. She is not, it is true, a creator of that which she shares but she draws people towards the One who is that Creator. May we too walk in the shadow of her mantle and be drawn through the sweetness of her smile into the presence of the Father of Light.

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