by Linda Ryan
People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. – Elizabeth Kübler-Ross
It’s a gray day outside. Living in Arizona, we don’t get many of them. Some people with severe Seasonal Affective Disorder, though, can almost immediately get depressed even with a few hours of gray-ness. Me, I love gray days. Growing up back east we had them often, usually accompanied by rain, soft, gentle rain that made everything lush and green and beautiful. Here, though, we have what seems like 360 sunny days a year although the latest figures I can find indicate the number is 296, including partly sunny days. Be that as it may, I still like gray days if for no other reason than it makes me look at the world a bit differently.
Maybe my love of gray days leads me to love Gothic cathedrals. Great stone walls and piers reaching toward the sky with vaulted arches spanning wide spaces are like a giant gray forest with a canopy overhead. It’s a worshipful place, a place where I feel God in a very immediate way. But there’s even more there; the tall cathedral walls are punctuated with pieces of glass, colored glass. The glass glows when the sun shines and at night, when the lights are on, the world outside can look to the cathedral and see a bit of beauty, maybe a bit of heaven and be comforted by it.
The thought struck me that Christ is like a cathedral–strong, great, solid, and beautiful. Those who live in Christ see the glory of God shining through the stained glass pieces of the windows, casting patches of colored light around like a warm quilt. Christ draws us in to the beauty and the glory within himself, and leading us to the altar of God to celebrate this communion. It’s a mystical moment, a place where time is suspended and all that matters is the calm, quiet, and closeness.
For those outside, Christ is like the cathedral at night, lights blazing. Like the beacon on the hill, it shines out into the darkness and draws people to it, people who are hurting and need comfort. It’s a thing of beauty in a world of ugliness and squalor.
There are people who are definitely in Christ. It shines out of them, this Christ-light, and it extends outward to a world that needs to see that light. They are people of goodness, people who care about their fellow human beings and want, in any way they are able, to bring the light they have to those in darkness and gray days. Watch Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s eyes as he talks. No matter what he is saying, the light of Christ shines from his eyes. His joy shows in his smile, his dancing. He has been through experiences that most of us will never have to face, yet Christ is in him and works through him to show the rest of us what it can be.
Probably we each know at least one person who is a light in our shadows and grayness. The friend who is always there and who knows, instinctively whether we need to talk or just need someone to sit with us in silence. We see someone answering the needs of the world and finding joy in it, like the man who works to fill backpacks of food and supplies for school children who otherwise would go hungry and lack educational tools. We see congregations helping to build houses for the poor so that they can have a safe place to live for themselves and their children. It’s the Christ-light that shines through these helpers that show us who Christ is and what his message is all about.
Christ is always there for you when you need him, shining his light around and through you. I saw it in a Russian Orthodox priest I met once. I couldn’t speak Russian, he couldn’t speak English, but there was something about him, an almost tangible aura that shone around him and through his eyes. I had no doubt he was a Christ light.
For whom can you be a Christ light? It isn’t enough to accept the light coming into the heart and soul like sunshine through a window, but it also has to go somewhere, be something that motivates a person do something for others, even and especially if it comes without strings or expectations of thanks or glory. Christ never asked for glory for himself, only for God. Perhaps that is the clue we often miss. Perhaps that is why we stifle that Christ light in ourselves.
So let us go out and let the glory be to God. Then let the Christ light shine so that the whole world is illuminated. It will be a much better place–and Lord knows, we need that.
Image: From Wikimedia Commons