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The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
& St. Mary’s Parish, Sligo

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Window of the Week

Week 6 – Holy Week

We return to the same window as last week. This week we read the rest of the window, leading us along the way of the Cross, to Jesus’ crucifixion, and then his removal from the cross and his being placed in the lap of his mum. Be aware at all times of the dominance of the colour red – symbol of Jesus’ blood, but also the strongest of our emotions – love, hate, joy, and power. Notice the blooming of foliage and flowers in the decoration – this is a scene of exuberant life, not death. See Jesus is kept company by John and his mum.

Mary’s attire is interesting. In the windows showing her life her clothing is that typical of Byzantine iconography – solid red and green, and the windows about Mary’s life with Jesus in the cathedral show her dressed that way. Her dress in this window is very different and is typical of fabric from Egypt of that time, with a horizontal stripe. Just an interesting detail. At last we see her clad in that heavenly blue cloak, the symbol of hope, devotion and sincerity. Mary’s intimate relationship with God is represented by the gold fringe on her blue cloak.  As Jesus is dying he entrusts her to John’s care as he says to John, “behold your mother” and John embraced her on our behalf. John is presented reverently holding the gospel in his arms for all to see. He is dressed in gold and green – gold to remind us of God’s closeness to all who contemplate the Cross, and all who are familiar with suffering. John is cloaked in green, that symbol of the victory of life over death.

            We focus next on the cross. It is essentially black, with a vine growing over it, making the cross appear green. This is the colour that proclaims the victory of life over death. This is the purpose of God revealed, and Jesus has done it! Lobin makes every effort to make this clear – Jesus is the Life, and gave himself in sacrifice for us – so that we would live! This is God’s work of recreation, God’s work of reuniting us with Himself – I am the vine / remain in me / the Father is the Vinedresser. (John 15:5 and following). This is all such good news for us!

Notice also, Jesus’ halo. Its blue and gold – the presence of God and the hope He gives us through his death, and of course resurrection. But that is a different window. Our invitation is to stand with those who loved Jesus and served him.  To celebrate his victory over death – to remember our baptism through which we are born to new life – life in Jesus. This Holy Week know beyond all doubt that Jesus died for you personally, for you as an individual. That is how much He loves you!

That top panel is our focus now. It presents the Deposition of Christ – like Michael Angelo’s Pieta – the moment Jesus’ dead body is laid in his mum’s lap. John is not included here, instead the window is filled with the presence of those who were unafraid of Jesus’ suffering – his female followers. These female disciples dedicated themselves to Jesus and his service – from their own resources (Luke chapter 8, verses 1 to 3). In the middle of this group is Jesus’ beloved mother. There are echoes of the story of Naomi and Ruth here (the Book of Ruth, chapter 1, verse 16 and following) as these ladies will have stayed also in support of Mary. It is interesting that Lobin puts four other women alongside Mary and Jesus. One is certainly Mary of Magdala – not to be confused with the prostitute who wept on Jesus’ feet in the home of Simon the Pharisee – they are two different women. Mary of Magdala did at some point have seven demons driven out of her by Jesus, but the details of that miracle are not told in the gospels. She may be one of the women standing, but it is likely she is depicted caressing Jesus’ feet – that woman’s halo is particularly ornate. That woman could however be Mary of Bethany, who in the days leading up to Jesus’ betrayal poured nard over Jesus’ feet as an expression of her devotion for him. Perhaps the kneeling woman is that unnamed prostitute who wept on Jesus’ feet. Perhaps one of the standing women is Martha, sister of Mary of Bethany? Who knows now. Whoever they are, Lobin’s window is a nod to all the women who followed the Lord and who stood at the cross when the disciples had fled and gone into hiding. There is one other person in the scene, the haloed man at the back of the group holding the pliers that removed the nails from Jesus’ hands and feet, Joseph of Arimathea. A man of courage and action. We stand with them all, we contemplate dedication and faith in action.

The colours and light, the shadows and postures focus our eye on the mother and her son. A sorrowful scene, yet Lobin includes one last symbol. Notice the ground into which the cross is planted when Jesus is hanging on it. Its barren looking. But now notice the ground beneath Jesus’ body – it is lush and verdant. Lobin’s bottom line –  in Jesus’ death on the cross life was victorious, Life is victorious. Let us not hasten on the Easter too quickly. Let us linger and look for the signs of life, the glimmers of hope in this crucifixion scene, and bring that expectation to how we look at our own lives, the lives of others and the world generally.

Week 5

This week we switch to the right-hand side of the Cathedral to a set of Story Lancets – the technical name for the shape of these windows and the content. Perhaps you are already aware, but our cathedral was constructed in the shape of the cross – it is Cruciform. Take a look at it on Google Maps, it’s clear from there. So, walk the length of the Cathedral, then turn to the right arm of the cross, and look up, high up! You will notice the design is much busier. Not only are there three panels but between each big panel there are smaller panels all telling aspects of the same story. This is the story of the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and Deposition of Christ. The vignettes, or smaller pictures show scenes of Jesus’ way to the Calvary. The four corners of the window show angels in adoration. Our focus is on the lower panel, the last supper. Notice John, leaning against Jesus, is dressed exactly the same as Judas, on our side of the table – the one person without a halo. It’s as if Judas and John are two sides of the one coin, both passionate, both intense, mirroring each other. But one is led to the Light, the other is led astray – the work of the devil, the deceiver we met tempting Eve. What did Lobin mean by dressing both in green, the colour for the triumph of life or death, and clad them in red which symbolises also the redeeming blood of Christ. And why does Jesus’ halo shine blue light and a gold cross – blue the colour for hope and gold the presence of God? And why is this all depicted within an eight-sided star, which echoes an important symbol in Islam called ‘Breath of God the Compassionate’. (This is not the only symbol in our Cathedral from another religious culture, to which we shall return on another day). It visualises the Divine inhalation and exhalation at the moment of creation, joining the elements of fire, air, water, earth and the four corners of space, and breathed into the lungs of the first man, Adam. This eight-sided symbol reminds us also of Baptism and God’s act of recreation. All at the table are busy trying to see or understand what Jesus is doing. There are only four of the apostles present, and two further gospel writers – Matthew has a scroll in his hand, consistent with the Matthew high up in the apse – the bald man to the left of Jesus. To the left again there is a younger man in blue, probably Luke. John is in front of Jesus, Peter is to the right and young Mark further to the right again. In their midst is Jesus, the Prince of Peace. His right hand is raised gesturing that he is True God and True Man, is clad in bright blue with a magnificent cosmic swirl in his sleeve – another symbol of God’s recreation. His other hand is held out making an offering – the bread that condemns Judas? Possibly not, since Judas already has something in his hand, which on closer inspection looks more like a fish, which is intriguing. Perhaps Jesus offers Himself – the Bread of Life, the Divine Catalyst. Jesus offers himself to you, to me this very day in Holy Communion. Will you receive? Will you be changed by receiving the gift of Life and Light? Finally, notice that the face of John has been erased, probably by the elements over the past 150 years. Imagine your face there – I dare you. Lean into Christ as you hear the Gospel proclaimed and as you eat his Body – he waits for you there.

 

 

Bingo Volunteers Needed

We are hoping to recommence the Bingo in the Gillooly Hall on a Sunday nights, in order to do so we need new volunteers to help out.

Please contact the Parish Office on 071 9162670.

 

Parish Shop

The Parish Shop will be open in the Gillooly Hall:

every Saturday from 11.00am to 2.00pm and

every Sunday after 10.30am & 12noon Masses.