I love stained glass windows, but find that much of their imagery is (not surprisingly) too entirely Christian for my taste. However, many years ago in a small Benedictine chapel in Manitoba, I discovered the most beautiful stained glass windows that I have ever seen. As shown by this photo, they do not depict saintly or Biblical images but instead simply consist of an abstract pattern of squares and rectangles made from brightly coloured glass separated by black borders of varying width.
It is the nature of the glass itself which makes such a profound statement in these windows. The artist did not use beautiful, thin, perfect pieces of stained glass. No, these pieces are thick and heavy. They are not uniform in their appearance. Some have big bubbles in the glass. Others have whorls, distortions, inner cracks and other imperfections. You might go so far as to call this glass ugly. It looks like the artist chose all the rejects for these windows.
But late in the day, when the setting sun pours through the misshapen glass, these windows are transformed. They glow with intense light and bathe the small chapel in the most glorious colours. The ugly glass becomes so beautiful and powerful that it takes your breath away. It wasn't until I saw this transformation happen that I finally understood what the artist was saying -- we all have flaws and imperfections but our true inner beauty is revealed when divine light and love shines through us.
[Photo taken by a photographer named Quiplash and found on Flickr]