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Spirituality

Arthur Heywood Memorial Window

St. George's Church - Klein Drakenstein

The theme of the window was inspired by two factors in Arthur's life: his love for mountains, particularly the Cape mountains, and an experience of the Divine Light as a result of a previous accident, in effect a near-death experience.

As life and death are two facets of the same reality, the window tries to convey a Christian's passage from one condition to another. In Arthur's case it is likely that he was afforded a grace granted only to saints and those on the path to spiritual perfection. The righteous do not come into judgment. They simply cross over from death to eternal life. (John 5:14; Col. 1:12)

The smiling, confident boy on the mountain, translates this life/death interface, the journey of consciousness as one spiritual continuum. Because Arthur already had a foretaste of the kingdom of light, he seems to welcome the angel inviting him back home. Short of direct experience, spiritual reality can only be communicated in symbols. Angels are symbols of a transcendent realm.

N.B. Arthur Heywood fell to his death in the mountains he loved. Discarded cans of Coca-cola, bottles and other trash people left behind were found in his rucksack.

Archangels Gabriel and Michael

St. Paul's Church - Rondebosch

From correspondence with client:

"I have a fairly good idea of how the two archangels should look in the finished windows. While one can have the usual static, posing posture, seen in most windows, I would personally like to do a more dynamic and spiritually meaningful depiction of them. As ethereal entities of the divine spiritual realm, I visualized them in a suspended position in midair, suggestive of swift movement rather than in an inert, static position."

From patristic texts on angels:

St. Basil the Great:
"In the heavenly powers their nature is that of an aerial spirit or an immaterial fire."

St. Gregory the Theologian:
"They are swiftly moving minds, a flame, and divine spirits which swiftly transport themselves through the air."

From Holy Scriptures:

"He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants."
Psalm 104:4 and Heb. 1:7

St. Thomas and St. Andrew

St. Paul's Church - Rondebosch

In the St. Thomas and St. Andrew windows a novel approach to traditional stained glass was taken. Together with elements of Byzantine iconography, a new spiritual dimension was introduced. This resulted in the two saints acquiring a mystical look.

St. Thomas, given the association with India, is reminiscent of a Vedic sage, a hint to perennial wisdom, ultimately all great spiritual traditions, as expressions of the Divine Logos, are one in their search for spiritual truth and the transcendent.

St. Andrew, while embracing his cross with one hand, with the other illustrates Jesus Christ's words "The Kingdom of God is within you". This also alludes to a contemplative meditation practice flowing directly from Jesus' teachings, the prayer of the heart. St. Andrew is credited with introducing this practice during his mission in Sarmatia, now part of present Romania. A tenet of the Eastern Church, it is meant to lead to full enlightenment and deification, the fulfillment of Christian life.

These windows received praise from the Anglican Bishop of Calcutta.

Jesus and The Samaritan Woman

Bishops Diocesan College - Cape Town

The design and work on the window posed a challenge technically. The request from the historical committee at Bishops College, the Eaton of South Africa, was to match the style of the existing windows in the chapel, hence the graphic devices at the top and bottom.

The window has two aspects, esoteric and exoteric. The later is reflected in the exemplary kindness and compassion of Jesus (the window was commissioned at a time when xenophobia was rife in South Africa), the former goes beyond Christian morality and reaches the depth of the mystical teachings of Jesus, the foundation of a spiritual path leading to illumination and deification.

To become worthy of being deified, one is called to engage on the path of spiritual practice, a progression of steps from moral action to ascetic discipline and contemplation. The steps in the window offer a hint to that. They also invite a mental connection between Jacob's well and Jacob's ladder, interpreted in mystical theology as a symbol of spiritual ascent.

One of the first steps involves control of bodily senses and instincts. The Samaritan woman, whose licentious life Jesus knew, was seeking physical water and was offered the living water of true life in the spirit. In the words of blessed Callistus, patriarch of Constantinople (XIV century): "If we do not bar our bodily senses, the fountain of that water which the Lord promised to the woman of Samaria will not gush forth in us."

In a wider spiritual context, the window alludes to a world in which the global thirst for the transcendental has led many astray. Anyone's search for Truth will be quenched abundantly at the fountain of Christian spirituality.

Christ The King Church

Claremont - Cape Town

The theme of the window is Christian spirituality. The design is based on the teachings of Jesus, Christian writings and a XII century icon known as "The ladder of Divine Ascent", after the title of Jon Climacus's work. Also known at times as Scala Perfectionis, the Christian spiritual path involves a progression of stages, from moral conduct and active church life to ascetic practices like fasting and vigils, and finally to contemplation, the reward of spiritual warfare being illumination and deification (seeing and being infused with the Divine Light). From the Desert Fathers to modern Christian saints and mystics, all have spoken about the stages of spiritual ascent and the necessity to engage in it.

The design involved turning the semicircle at the top of the window into a full circle of dazzling light representing the Kingdom of God. The ladder of spiritual progression at the centre of the window reaches towards the Kingdom. Various obstacles on the spiritual path are symbolized by broken rungs. Sin and temptation, as part of our fallen nature, are the main obstacles and are symbolized by undulating, serpent-like motifs which start retreating at the top of the ladder as one nears spiritual perfection.

The two columns of red, changing to orange and yellow, symbolize our human condition dominated by ego, drives and instinct. Jung, the great scientist of the psyche, made an analogy in which consciousness is represented in terms of a scale of light. Most of us are at the red end of the spectrum. As a result of a growth process, we tend to brake free and reach towards the upper levels permeated by spirit. Yellow and orange signify conscious psyche, the re-kindling of the divine sparkle within ourselves (Luke 17:21).

The contemporary design of the window, a graphic representation of Christian spirituality, is a first in South Africa and one of a few in the world.

Holy Trinity Church

Kalk Bay - Cape Town

The design of the window, contemporary in concept, encompasses three main aspects:

The first aspect refers directly to the subject of the windows - a homage to the work of fishermen in the area.

The second aspect refers to Christian spirituality, most specifically the teachings of Jesus about the kingdom of heaven and the spiritual struggle to attain it. There is an interplay between the literal and metaphorical reading of the relevant words and sayings of Jesus. For example Luke 5:4 and John 21:6 are interpreted in mystical theology as an instruction to the practice of contemplative meditation.

The third aspect refers to the unusual perspective of the design. One can look and see beneath the surface of the water as well as the world above it at the same time. The silhouette of the mountains in the distance with the dawn in the sky beyond and the deep of the ocean in the foreground are seen as one whole. It is called in art "The Eye of God". Jesus could factually see with the eye of God.

Transfiguration Window Project

The Church of the Transfiguration - Bellville, Cape Town

The design of the window, though not abstract, uses abstraction in an unique concept as a means to capture the essence of Transfiguration. The spiritual impact in the design is maximized by comparison to a figurative one which at best would be an approximation of a transubstantial phenomenon that no images could do justice to.

As attested by the Scriptures, as well as the saints and mystics, the Light of Transfiguration, as manifestation of divine uncreated light, is qualitatively different from the physical, created light. The design proposes a superposition of the two. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his book "The Dwelling of the Light" says referring to the moment of Transifiguration: "The light that flows from Jesus here is not a created light, it isn't a phenominon of this world, but a direct encounter with the action of God."

During Transfiguration matter becomes spirit, the physical Jesus dissolves in this Light, so there is no image to speak about. There are many testimonies from saints and mystics who received the Divine Light. Here is one from St. Simeon the New Theologian who in this account refers to himself in the third person. "Once, when he was standing at prayer, a brilliant divine radiance descended on him from above and filled the whole room. On all sides he saw nothing but light, he was not even aware of standing on the ground. He became wholly dissolved in this transubstantial light and it seemed to him that he himself became light." The prayer referred to here is the noetic prayer practiced in Eastern Christianity.

The physical light, symbolizing the visible world, is represented by its spectrum, a succession of rainbow colours. Light is vibrating energy and we perceive the various wavelengths in the visual spectrum as colour due to the design of our organ of vision, a wondrous complex design that points to a Creator.

The divine Light of Transfiguration is represented by a lorge ogival shape (to be found in Christian iconography) placed in the upper (golden) area of the window. A special type of glass in a special arrangement was used to suggest the brilliance of the ineffable, uncreated Divine Light, an effect achieved at the time of day when the sun shines behind it.

The same type of glass was used to create miniature symbols of the Divine Light in the middle of each panel representing the spectral light. Apart from creating a jewel-like effect, they symbolize the many saints and mystics who received the Divine Light.

The window is not only a space to contemplate, a space of awe and wonder, but also a unique testimony to the Christian faith and its loftly spirituality.

EDITORIAL IN CHURCH NEWSLETTER
THE WINDOW OF LIGHT EDITION - AUGUST 2015



EMOTIVE is a word which by definition is the "ability to arouse intense emotions". To appreciate my experience you would need to understand that the window along with the natural light chooses an exact moment of the day to show its glory. One recent Sunday after mass I stopped to chat to W. Much to my annoyance he seemed to be distracted, looking over my shoulder. So I turned to look and there was the answer. The window was emptying itself while the back of the church was bathed in its magnificent colours, and what was left? A white window difficult to look into. My bottom lip started to shiver and I felt a bit faint. Soon I was reduced to tears as these intence emotions washed over me at this moment in time, a sacred moment to be treasured. Come and experience the Transfiguration! I have no doubt that many stories about the Window of Light will be told in the future.

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