I was sitting in one of the churches I review on my blog a few months ago admiring the intricacy of the stain glass windows. They are in 99.99% of our churches. All are absolutely beautiful and add subtly but importantly to our spiritual experience. Have you ever gone outside your church and looked at the same window? It is not the same awe-inspiring mosaic we see from the inside. Using this as an analogy, which side are you showing to your husband, children, coworkers, friends, neighbors?
This is the precise question that washed over me while at mass during reflection. Being me, I turned that question inward.
I admit that I am desensitized to stained glass windows in a church. I see them all the time and everything seems to blend into a colorful array of patterns and religious symbols or a religious scene. As I walk into my own church I don’t even “see” what is in front of me anymore. As I walked into a new church, I was becoming too clinical.
Stain glass windows on each side of the church. Check.
Stain glass windows in the back loft above the organ. Check.
Stain glass windows somewhere around the altar. Check.
Then I entered a new church; it was dark inside. I looked at the windows but they did not look so vivid. I thought about the outside; are they vivid? I know, stupid question! I went outside and looked.
No they are not.
I went back inside and the lights were on and the windows came to life. As I sat down and prayed I began reflecting and applied this to myself. Which side am I showing to those around me? Which side do I want to show?
I took a closer look it seems for the first time and noticed every pane of glass that makes up this vivid mosaic. That is me. That is us. That is my wife, my mother, my father, my friends, my children.
The light that came on in the church, that is my baptism - Christ in me. All those closest to me make this light even brighter.
I began praying for all of them. I reflected on which pane I show them. I thought about the outside, how blah it is, one-dimensional. In that moment it felt like my sins.
I thought of a recent difficult phone call I had with my father. I showed him the outside of my “window” because I felt anger with him. I was not letting him in. I was not letting me out. I didn’t want him to see my mosaic. But I want him to feel the warmth and vibrancy of the inside of the stained glass. I’ve heard it said often, but as I prayed I knew this was a choice.
I suddenly thought of the many times I showed only the outside to so many folks. Even my own wife and children. They would never know who I truly am. I would never share Christ within me with them. I felt the wrongness of my selfishness.
As I looked at the complete scene in front of me, I could see Jesus was with his apostles. He was teaching them. He looked as though he was forgiving Peter. That was my interpretation in this state of mind.
I zoomed in on his expression: Forgiveness. Sitting, thinking, waiting for Mass to begin, I prayed for my own repentance and serenity. I thought of those I needed to forgive. Each hue of each pane of glass resonated through my prayer as I prayed for forgiveness and strength. I know if I show this side of me people will feel Christ through me.
I want to be a pane in the glass. I want to be the whole mosaic. Sadly, I come short many times.
Here is what to remember: we all are a whole mosaic. We all have special gifts, abilities to share. What are we showing and to whom? Easy to say, hard to remember.
Finally, I began to think about those around me in my life. Which side of them am I seeing? Which hues are emanating outward from them toward me and others?
This lingered with me and became a contemplative exercise. I started with those closest to me and moved outward. As I thought, I prayed. Sometimes for the person, other times for me in response to the person I thought about.
Next time you are in the church, wondering what to pray for, whom to pray for, take a moment and look at the windows around you. Reflect, pray, listen.
What pane in the glass do you see?
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PS – I want to leave you with this special stained glass window. I walked into St. Clement of Rome in Romeo, MI and the stations of the cross ARE the stained glass windows!
Copyright 2016 Peter Serzo
About the Author
Peter Serzo, observer, listener, author, speaker, and blogger. He shares his experiences at different Catholic churches at Dotirome.com and on his popular Priest Podcast, with enlightening conversation with those that lead (not a theology conversation but a conversation on being a priest/leader/human). Peter travels, visiting different Catholic churches satiating his curiosity and desire to spread each parish's uniqueness though his blog and presentations.