Seven-year old Buddy and his elderly cousin, Miss Sook Salk, came to the end of the day of gathering supplies to make fruitcakes for Christmas. Giddy with excitement and tired from activities, they romped in a nearby field and sprawled out in the tall grass, their Christmas-gift kites cavorting in the wind (A Christmas Memory).*
“You know what I’ve always thought?” she asks in a tone of discovery … “I’ve always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when He came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through … But I’ll wager it never happens. I’ll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are … just what they’ve always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes” (42–43).
Since reading this account several years ago, I’ve often asked myself if I see my days, especially those of what I consider everyday experiences, as at least glimpses of God: the smell of cookies baking; the taste of pickles; the feel of the coat of a Golden Retriever; the sight and sound of a baby’s cooing and smiling—with eyes and mouth; the hug and words from a loved one. What gifts! They are stained-glass windows through which God shines giving me light, color, intimacy, awe, love-made-flesh today—a continuation of my Christmas celebration of God becoming human through Jesus.
What about the days that bring trauma, suffering and fear to me and those close to me, to people throughout earth-planet? As I look at stained-glass windows in churches, I see Christ, Mary and others who are praying and serving along with some martyrs who gave their lives through horrific violence and death out of love for God. To be true to today, our windows need to feature people suffering and dying in places such as Ukraine, Palestine, countries in the southern hemisphere due to the violence of people who resist the causes they stand for. God is shining through them to show us commitment to God’s values and vision for their and our futures, solidarity among people of similar visions, courage, hope. How might God shine through people who are caught in substance abuse, suffering from assault, desperate with financial worries, wrongly imprisoned, agonizing through our immigration process?
I ask myself: Whom would I include in a stained-glass window? What events would I depict? More importantly, what impact might these images exert on my life … on the people and happenings in my world? To what do I intend to give efforts to help develop persons and events into the vision God holds and is continuing to create during 2024?
*By Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory. NY: Random House, 1956. You can also find various YouTube videos.
Mary Reuter, OSB
Photo: Stained-glass windows in Sacred Heart Chapel in 1958