Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

God’s Time

October 27th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie
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Sainte-Chapelle, Paris.

(click on photos)

Sainte-Chapelle is considered one of the highest artistic achievements of the medieval period. Consecrated in the spring of 1248 it was created by King Louis XIV to house the relics of the Crown of Thorns. Sainte-Chapelle, on the Île de la Cité in the middle of Paris, consists of one of the most extensive “in-situ” collections of 13th-century stained glass anywhere in the world. The “walls” of the chapel are veritable curtains of stained glass.

The thirteen huge windows are a pictorial presentation of the events of the Bible. Both the Old and the New Testaments are depicted with the New Testament scenes occupying the eastern apse. Old Testament scenes are depicted in the north and south windows. A rose stained glass window depicts the Book of Revelation in the west end.

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In Sainte-Chapelle, Paris.

(Isaiah 42:6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles… ) Standing in the center of the chapel you feel engulfed by the light of salvation history. Sunlight –Divine Light, if you will— shines through the pictorial images of the Bible. It’s impressive: the Bible glowing, floating and projecting its content on the floor and walls of the church. Each episode in the Bible in this experience seems timeless, eternal. Each episode emanates Divine Light. (Psalm 36:9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.)

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In Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.

Christianity is an historical religion; everything has a this time, this place, this person historical reference (Jesus suffered “under Pontius Pilate”). Historical events have a definite time limit and reference, yet, in Christian theology, Biblical events are eternal as well as “in time”. They exist “once and for all time”. They are eternally efficacious. Similar to the Passover and the Sacrifice of the Cross they are always present. They exist in God’s time.

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In Beauvais Cathedral, France.

Figurative stained glass windows effectively communicate the experience of the essential and eternal nature of salvation history. It’s not the only medium able to do so but it might be the most effective given its great dependence on sunlight, and also effective because of our awareness of the ubiquitous references to light throughout the Bible that convey the sense of divinity. (Matthew 17:2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.)

The divine is eternal and divine light is therefore eternal, driving away the darkness forever. (John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.)

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From the beginning, Catholic churches were meant to convey a foretaste of heaven. Down through history images from salvation history (and also images of the saints in heaven) were always numerous and richly presented in our churches. The experience was of beautiful timelessness. Worshipers entering Catholic churches had a sense of entering into God’s place and God’s time.

When we enter our contemporary Catholic churches whose time zone do we feel we are in: God’s or ours?

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One Response to “God’s Time”

  1. snowshoes says:

    Thank you, Bernie, for this excellent post. I was fortunate to visit la Sainte-Chapelle, and it is breathtaking. St. Louis IX left the world a beautiful testament to his Catholic faith. What is wonderful now is all the great photography which enables us to appreciate and contemplate all the exquisite stained glass artwork of scenes from the bible. While being there in person gives you the experience of the whole church, you can’t see closely most of the stained-glass pictures, because of the height of the windows.
    Yes, it’s time to start commissioning real stained glass window like this in our churches, and I’m praying that the new church being built at St. Pius X will have many. Happy All Souls Day! St. Louis, priez pour nous!

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