the first Sunday

Jan 29, 2012

Well I have just arrived back in Cheviot after driving 400km and celebrating four Sunday Masses. This was my first weekend as Parish Priest of the three parishes of North Canterbury.

The driving was tough, but it was a delight to celebrate Mass in such beautiful churches, for wonderful people who were very welcoming to their new priest.

There were many highlights over the weekend. The greatest of these was meeting so many parishioners, and celebrating Mass for the first time in four of the seven parish communities. 

I was also quite captivated by the beauty of the stained glass windows in each church.

I suppose it would have been very easy, certainly much cheaper, to save many dollars at the time of building and install plain glass, or even coloured glass in a simple arrangement with only a couple of shades. But the faith-filled parishioners who built these churches would only give God the very best, and imported, intricate and delicate glass.

These windows are certainly beautiful. But, and this is where stained glass is a very helpful image for us, without the light of the sun, they are nothing. 

Try looking at one of these windows at night. Pretty ugly, black panes criss-crossed with lead. But even the first dim rays of dawn reveal the beauty; the colour, the design, the image.

This is a powerful reminder of our life with, or without God.

It is only in the light of God that the beauty of every human person is visible. 

It is only in God’s light that the meaning and purpose of every human life can be seen.

One of my teachers (at the Liturgical Institute in Chicago) Denis McNamara, develops this image reflecting on San Chapelle in Paris:

Enough pondering at the end of a long day. I’m off to bed.


P.S.   A friend (after reading this entry) has just msg’d me to say that Pope Benedict used this image of the stained glass when in the USA.  Here is the quote from the pope’s homily in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York.

“The first has to do with the stained glass windows, which flood the interior with mystic light. From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendor. Many writers – here in America we can think of Nathaniel Hawthorne – have used the image of stained glass to illustrate the mystery of the Church herself. It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit. It follows that we, who live the life of grace within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light.”


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