The Transfiguration Window

Back in August 2000, just after the dedication of the church, artist Helen McLean of Wexford, Ireland wrote about her experience creating the oculus for the Church of the Transfiguration.

This window presented me with a difficult challenge. How to create the window of the Transfiguration? The more I meditated on the theme, the more the spiritual, mystical nature of the Transfiguration dominated my thought. The moment Christ was transfigured and his garments became strong, white light, a heavenly radiance was at the center of my inspiration: “He was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them” (Mark 9:2-3). No human form or figurative piece could I feel express this experience — this incredible, intangible moment.

The window was to be an expression of energy and power with light emitting from the center — the light expressed by a hand-blown piece of glass with flecks of red. The rest of the composition was conceived as this divine energy transmitting lines and waves, flowing around the middle, meandering and moving, evoking color and energy. Fiery reds, vivid orange, gold and yellows explode forth, enlivening the circle, the entire cosmos. The cosmos is ablaze with the glory of Christ!

The four flames flicker, symbols of spiritual purification, enlightenment, and love. Thus this can be seen as a ‘fire window’ — the force of rejuvenation and renewal. The flame-form, outlined in gold, is a further expression of pure light.

Within the circle, elemental forms are portrayed, conveying the movement and energy of the divine light. The three interlocking forms and nine circles were intended on one level as abstract elements. On another level, they could be interpreted as Saints Peter, James, and John, and the nine circles as the nine choirs of angels.

The same light and energetic power provides the relationship between the window, seen on the outside, and the portal below. The circular cosmos and the power of God in every day of creation is clearly expressed, as is the light of God’s first word, “Let there be light!”

Inside, the window relates to the baptismal font. Both are created in a glass material. One absorbs and reflects light, whilst the other lets light pass through it. The gold on the font floor absorbs the natural light to reflect a white, sacred light. Both pieces have a central circular form, from which lines radiate around the center. This can be understood as the power and light of the Holy Spirit emanating out, flowing from light to dark, embracing all the baptized.

“All ye who would the Christ descry, lift up your eyes to Him on high:
There mortal gaze hath strength to see the token of His majesty.
A wondrous sign we there behold, that knows no death nor groweth old…”
—Prudentius, 4th century

Helen McLean
Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, 2000

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Swept Up Higher!

By Sr. Fidelis

No matter how many times I have chanted the chants for the Feast of the Transfiguration, I feel like a little kid all over again when I hear them! The chants for this feast have such exhilarating, text-coloring melodies, it’s difficult not to be swept up with them. Let’s take a look at just one example — the 1st Vespers Hymn — Quicumque Christus Quaeritis.

Here is the first verse:
Whosoever you are who seek Christ, raise your eyes on high;
there, you will be allowed to see a sign of eternal glory.

The hymn begins in the lowest part of the mode, as though “bowed over.” However, it gently and quickly rises higher until the very word “there” — as though carrying us along to the exact point at which we might see Christ — before returning to where it began.

However, and perhaps even more amazing, the musical shape of this hymn echoes the story of the Transfiguration itself. If you recall, Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him up Mt. Tabor (a long climb if you have never experienced it!), where they saw Jesus, Moses and Elijah speak together, and heard God’s own voice — in all senses, a “mountain top” experience! Also, remember that Peter wanted to remain on the mountain but Jesus said that was not possible — they must descend and return to their daily lives with this experience.

This is EXACTLY what the chant does in sound — melodic motion to a specific high point on the word “there”, a moment of lingering and, like I said earlier, a floating descent to its final cadence. When I hear this hymn, I feel as though I am being retaken on that same, living journey. I believe that this is one of the greatest gifts and benefits of the chant: its ability to lift us out of where we are, take us to a new place of conversation with God, and return us to our daily lives, transformed.

Have a blessed week and Happy Feast of the Transfiguration!

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Impressions

Last week, I started a week-long conversation with the Lord. It began with me in my frustration, asking God how long it would take me to change. ( well, honestly, it really began with me asking the Lord how long it was going to take the person with whom I’d just had an argument to change!)

As I settled down and began to listen more, He began to teach me.

He told me I couldn’t change myself. He told me I couldn’t become like Him just by copying Him. That wasn’t  enough.

I waited for Him to tell me more, but that is all I heard for that day.

The next day, I was talking to the Lord about some stress in my life and why He was allowing it. What good was there in it? As I listened, I heard Him say, “as you are pressured and press yourself against Me, my image is imprinted on you. All you have to do is throw yourself on Me.

As I went into our church a few days later, I looked at the bronze Adam & Eve on the doors. I realized the art form to make the doors, the Lost Wax process, is similar to what happens to us in Transfiguration – as we allow the pressure in our lives to push us towards Jesus, He impresses His image into us.Eve - from the main doors

Never Alone

By Sr. Nun Other

Transition is my word of the week. It means changing from one state or condition to another; a passage or metamorphosis. I see transition at my doorstep in the flowers of early spring: crocuses, daffodils and tete-a-tetes form a gentle army to challenge winter’s lock down. For me, transition is one of life’s most difficult journeys. It can result from unmitigated failure, unmitigated success, or simply the passage of time. One is left “in the middle zone,” waiting for reformation, definition, and transformation. (If a tadpole can become a frog and a caterpillar a butterfly, isn’t just about anything possible?) If you find yourself in transition, be grateful, remain hopeful, for Jesus walks with us in the shadow-times as well as the light.

The Community of Jesus

New Years Inventory

By Melodious Monk

Did Jesus come this Christmas? Have I let him penetrate my sometimes hardened heart? Have I let him come all the way in where it is warm, where I can give shelter? Have I let him into the rooms that hurt, the rooms I feel embarrassed about, and the rooms I don’t dare enter myself?  Have I let his tiny hands touch those scars, or his tiny eyes shed light ever deeper into my heart?

Did Jesus come differently this year?

Did I expect Jesus to come differently this year?

A new year brings hope, the possibility for change, for transfiguration.

Jesus is continually coming. Will I choose to open the door and let him in?

The Community of Jesus

Whirlwind of Patience

By Melodious Monk

It’s hard to be patient. I’ve been told that this gets better as you get older, but I’m not there, yet. There are a few specific things in my life I know God has initiated. Things I know he’s given me hope and vision for, but either they just haven’t happened yet, or they are happening in a way I can’t see or understand.  In his steady way of writing, I find that these words of Oswald Chambers help re-assure my wavering faith.

God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. Ever since God gave us the vision, He has been at work. He is getting us into the shape of the goal He has for us, and yet over and over again we try to escape from the Sculptor’s hand in an effort to batter ourselves into the shape of our own goal . . . 

Allow the Potter to put you on His wheel and whirl you around as He desires. Then as surely as God is God, and you are you, you will turn out as an exact likeness of the vision. But don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had a vision from God, you may try as you will to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never allow it.

Perhaps I just need to be more patient and let God do what he does best — transform us.

The Community of Jesus

 

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

By Sr. Nun Other

As a child, Pennsylvania born, I enjoyed warm afternoons under the shade trees in our yard. My sister and I would picnic on peanut butter sandwiches and watch the sky dance between branches. As an adult on Cape Cod, I gravitated toward sunny beaches and beautiful sunsets without regret; however, circumstances recently led me to a lawn chair beneath a cluster of oak trees. It was a fascinating experience, both the present reality and the memories it evoked. Two squirrels shared the space, swinging from tree limbs, juggling acorns, and chattering to one another. Perhaps they sensed my presence; one chunky fellow suddenly fastened himself head-down on a tree trunk. Flattened against the bark, a natural camouflage, he was all but invisible.

I sometimes do a human version of this disappearing act. I flatten myself against an inward wall, facial expression neutral, unreadable and unreachable, emotion and reactions restrained. While the squirrel was protecting himself from possible predators, I protect myself from the reality of who I am unfiltered. In so doing, I block my need for Jesus and His desire to transform my life.

The Community of Jesus

Transfiguration

By Renaissance Girl

Yesterday was the feast day of the Transfiguration, the name day of our church. Our Sunday Eucharist was enlivened with movement and brass fanfare and ribbons streaming from the west wall depicting the Transfiguration story. But what’s on my mind is transfiguration in its broader sense — most likely prompted by the combination of yesterday’s service, and the impending opening night of “Julius Caesar” this Friday by Elements Theatre Company. It’s a big word for a concept that is both basic and immensely mysterious — change.

A word most of us both long for and avoid. I easily focus on the little changes of my daily life — an updated rehearsal time, a cancelled event, a new living situation — and I overlook the fact that life itself is one big change, and one we can’t measure by time or distance. Like St. Paul says in the scriptures, “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”  Degree by degree, moment by moment, becoming who we are meant to be.

What eludes me sometimes is the fact that God can use anything to bring about this change. It’s not about me trying to become different — it’s an action God does in me when I say “yes.” Which is where “Julius Caesar” comes in. Isn’t part of what draws us to theater — or any art — is the potential for change? To see something a little differently, experience life in someone else’s shoes. I wonder if theater/art is one of the few places we humans are actually open to having our minds or opinions changed — maybe we even long for it. The “Julius Caesar” I read in high school, held at arms length, is quite different from the “Julius Caesar” I am living now. And sometimes just the willingness to engage (to consider that what seems like an old story from history, actually has something to teach us now) is all it takes to start the change.

I have a quote on my desk that I love and says it far better — it was said by Monsignor Timothy Verdon, Director of the Office of Sacred Art and Church Cultural Heritage in Florence, Italy. He says the role of an artist requires him or her to give to others and therefore inspires us to look to him/her as a giver of spiritual life and “by doing that, we acknowledge art’s potential to nourish our craving for richer, deeper, more meaningful life, and we are already changed.”

The Community of Jesus

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

The Missa De Angelis and Rock of Ages – A Joyous Experience!

We experienced a beautiful funeral liturgy last week, singing Missa de Angelis, an array of gospel hymns, and two solos from Handel’s Messiah! What fun! This musical combination basically “said it all” about the lovely lady who passed away. One person actually noted to me that they “had never seen a chant Agnus Dei and Rock of Ages side by side.”

That comment made me think. We live in a time when the chant is being re-discovered, employed ever more and more in worship services, and is being made available to an increasing number of people. In the same breath, I would also say that we live in a time where there are a good number of folks looking back – looking for the music – the faith – of their childhood which was part of their spiritual formation. I believe I heard the result of part of that searching in that liturgy. The singing of Rock of Ages actually energized the mass movements, which, in turn, energized the communion hymns. All of a sudden, it was as though people had discovered that they could LOVE IT ALL!

I know that may not be a revelation for everyone, but I believe it is for many. Loving and understanding chant actually opens doors for understanding other styles of music but – more important – opens doors just for the understanding of text and music which has the ability to inspire and move the listener to pray. What an amazing experience!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

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Floral Emblems

By Sr. Nun Other

Lining the walkway to our church are eight wooden planters. For the season of Lent, they’re filled with arrangements of eucalyptus branches in graceful shades of purple and green. Purple for the robe of Jesus, symbolic of suffering and pain, is entwined with spring green, the color of growth, rebirth, and transformation. Historically, from the eucalyptus itself, healing oils are extracted for treatment of wounds and sickness. Color choice and foliage form a perfect Lenten symmetry.

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