You probably can’t really tell from this little picture, but here is one of the most beautiful stained glass windows in the world.
OK, I haven’t seen all the windows in the world … but surely this ranks right up there at the top. It is located behind the altar of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Brewster, New York, and if you’re ever around on a sunny winter Sunday morning, stop in for the service.
The rising sun sets this window on fire. Oranges and yellows and reds leap into your eyes, and the window comes alive as the sun appears to move behind it.
That’s the glory seen from the pew, but more wonders are in store for the curious. After the service, walk up to the sanctuary and approach the window. If you look carefully, or feel gently, you will discover that the glass itself isn’t flat; it is sculpted. What appear as outward folds of garments are made of much thicker glass, causing less light to pass through and giving the sense that the garment is, indeed, folded.
The windows of St. Andrew’s are made in the “Tiffany school” of design. If you know Tiffany church windows, you will recognize this immediately. All the windows (and they ring the church nave) tell the story of the life of Jesus. Each is worthy of a good hour of careful exploration. A good retreat day would consist of just that: meditating on each window as the sun travels the sky, back-lighting each of them in its journey, echoing Jesus’ Earthly journey.
I have been told that glass is not exactly solid. Over the years it will “melt” toward the ground as gravity has its way. Perhaps this is why stained glass windows were invented; I assume smaller pieces of glass surrounded by leading would suffer less from Earth’s pull than would the large panes needed to fill most church windows.
Whatever their provenance, I’m glad someone came up with the idea. I’m easily transported by the beauty of these works of art; something beyond the picture, beyond the colors, beyond the skillful crafting calls to me. I react with more than my eyes and my head—my heart is stirred, and I can almost feel the interaction of sun and glass, of story and artisan.
Stained glass is for me a glorious promise of what life could be: a meaningful journey of richness borne of diversity, each of us joining with a neighbor of difference to form one image of beauty, love, interaction.
Untold hours were spent creating these wonders for churches throughout the world. No matter what your theological bent, you owe it to yourself to contribute a few hours of your own to visit a few. You won’t be sorry.