Fr. Mark’s Musings 07-22-18

Fr. Mark’s Musings 07-22-18

I am an artist, and I also appreciate and admire the artwork of others.  I do not yet know who did the windows in our church, but I have come to enjoy his/her work more each day, as I grasp more of the symbolism, playfulness, movement, color, and beauty of these windows.  I have to say quite frankly that these are among the very best modern church windows that I have seen anywhere, and I have been in a lot of churches in this country and around the world.  Sometimes, however, when we see something every week for years, we can take it for granted or even miss much of the beauty, so I will describe to you what I see in these windows.

One striking feature of these windows is that they, with the exception of the skylight, are laid out as long horizontal, vertical, and diagonal strips—as opposed to the usual rectangular panels of more or less picture-frame proportions.  There is a delightful play of warm and cool colors here.  The glass pieces are laid out in patterns that feel much more like a mosaic than what we see in traditional stained glass windows, which are more like paintings.  These pieces are aligned to create wonderful waving, flowing, radiating, swirling, spiraling, arching, and flaming movements.

On the left side of the church, the windows present the striking contrast between country and city, as we see in SE Michigan and all around the globe.  St Isidore (Isidro) the Farmer, our patron saint, stands in the middle of a field of corn with their tassles shooting up and their leaves arching left and right, and the sky forming a sort of halo around the saint’s head.  To the left of Isidore is a field of wheat, with its grains swaying this way and that.  To the right is an orchard, so characteristic of our Great Lakes state.

As we turn the corner of the church of course, we see the symbols of Detroit—car, bridge, skyline.  I especially like the way the artist so subtly suggests the arches of the bridge at night, with the skyline in daylight, or so it appears to me.  

This symbolism is so important for us.  We are a parish whose roots are proudly rural, as indicated by our Strawberry Festival.  But we are still part of a metro area, and we need to constantly strive to bridge that divide, such as we did with the recent On the Rise baked goods sale.

Behind the altar, we have a wonderful depiction of creation itself.  In the Genesis account, God brings about order from chaos, but these windows show that nature’s order is never rigid, but rather, playful.  Just as the side windows symbolize the man-made dichotomy of country and city, so the front windows indicate God’s dichotomy: day is separated from night, and land from sea, as indicated in Genesis.  

In the long diagonal line of sky that follows the church’s roof line, we see the day and its sun on the left, almost imperceptibly melding into night, with its moon and stars on the right.  In the vertical strips at either end of that front wall, we see the land on the left and the sea on the right.  The sun is placed right at the top center of the church, where the vertical and horizontal window strips intersect.  It radiates down upon the land, nurturing the vegetation below, with a swift stream flowing into a river at the bottom.  Meanwhile, on the shorter,right side vertical strip in the corner of the building, we see gulls flying over a sea with fish.

Continuing our clockwise movement around the church we see, on the other side of the large banners which complement our windows quite nicely, a depiction of Christ the Good Shepherd with his sheep. Taken together with the aforementioned birds and fish, this sort of rounds out the animal kingdom.  In the horizontal strip above that section of the church, we have depictions of the Church’s seven sacraments.

As I understand it, the Holy Spirit wing was built later.  I believe the windows there were designed by the same artist. (If not, this artist did a great job of imitating the previous style!)  The skylight, of course, is a very different kind of window than the strips that define most of the church.  This is a large square, slightly pyramidal shape, and the movement of the windows follows the architecture.  While the flaming, flowing movement is similar to what we see elsewhere in the building, this is not a translucent mosaic, but a mostly transparent window. Furthermore, because this is a symmetrical pyramid, the window design itself is symmetrical—like a kaleidoscope, but with curved lines rather than stars and polygons.  At the peak of this flaming pyramid is a delightful pinwheel shape.

I hope my description of our windows helps give you a greater appreciation of what is truly one of the treasures of this parish.