Celebrating 50 years of God’s playful presence in Sacred Heart Convent Chapel
“O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me” Psalm 43:3
One of the most endearing and enduring facts about the windows in the Motherhouse chapel is that they tell the story of who we are as Dominicans of Springfield. That’s what church windows do. In the days of an illiterate population, beautifully colored stained glass windows told the people the stories of their faith. Their fully sunlit beauty inspired awe and offered the common folk hope, as well as courage. The daily and seasonal play of light and darkness crafted nuances that added further poignancy and meaning to the stories the windows depicted.
The windows in our chapel have done no less. Over the last fifty years, their faithful and playful presence has kept before us the tenets of our Dominican life. We study, we praise, we preach the Word, we worship God, we do the work of church. And we do so in a spirit of humility and joy, with one another, and with others who share our passion to make right the relationships in a world traumatized by violence and indifference.
We speak often these days about broken relationships. Yet, the sun still shines. And our windows continue to witness to one of many of the world’s stories of brokenness healed by acts of courage, Truth-telling, solidarity, and loving perseverance.
In such a demandingly needy world, it is easy to forget the stories that sustain us. We relegate them to a comforting ambient light and prevent them from growing in meaning and relevance. Our eyes are pulled elsewhere and we fail to see newer, larger stories shining through. Are the windows in our chapel inviting us into a larger story? What new truths are being revealed?
The revelations of science in the last few decades have presented us with a story large enough to contain all others. And that has given us a glimpse of a God much grander, more intimate, more creative and whimsical and compassionate than we ever before had the capacity to imagine! We can no longer enclose God—Holy Mystery—or Earth, or the vast community of life, or ourselves in the small, separate, lidded boxes we once thought held everything we knew.
In the instant before the beginning, there was no Universe, and now we have hundreds of billions of galaxies with hundreds of billions of stars, many with solar systems circling round them. On the third planet of our particular solar system, life evolved in such abundance and variety that its complexity overwhelms the senses. And if all that were not amazing enough, in one species on this planet the capacity for self-consciousness emerged. Unlike other species, we humans can actually reflect upon this incredible Universe, share those reflections with others, give praise to the Creator of it all, and just now begin to understand that the entire immensity we call Universe is intimately and irrevocably interconnected! We are all part of one greater whole. And that changes the way we see everything. How can we ever again look at our chapel windows in the same way?
The two windows artist Gabriel Loire named Adoration grace each side of the altar. We can now see in the outward leaping red and gold the original flaring forth of the Universe as it emerged from seeming nothingness, its full potential intact, ever unfolding even to this day. That singular cosmological event is the origin of everything we know, everything we are and will become. It is God calling us into existence, gifting us with all that is needed to co-create ever-greater works of beauty and complexity.
The windows on either side of the altar remind us of our Dominican heritage. They call to us now with greater urgency and passion. Never before has Study and the search for Truth been more vital for learning about the intricacy, complexity, and the consequences of living in an interrelated world.
The utter interconnectedness of the whole of creation brings new dimensions to our understanding Fraternal Life. Everything anyone does affects everyone else. A butterfly flapping its wings in Thailand can create a tornado in Kansas. That gives us hope that the work we do does make a difference. It also makes us realize the care we must take in our lifestyle choices and in our Apostolic ministerial decisions because their consequences are felt around the world.
Holy Mystery does not need the Praise we offer. We do. Our voices, our lives need to join the universal melody of creation that sings the glory of the Creator, incarnated, enfleshed, embodied in the whole of it. We need to root ourselves in humus, in Earth our planetary home, in Humility, understanding that we are who we are because we are all part of the greater whole.
That brings us back full circle to the window behind the tabernacle, the window Loire called Communion. All of us together, the weak and the strong, the human and other-than-human, the living and non-living have specific roles to play and gifts to share. We are not in this alone; we never have been. Even when we build walls of stone, the sun still shines. It finds its way in through the cracks and crevices. And when we are wise enough to install windows of colored glass, light will always play upon our creativity and invite us to deeper Truth.