Still – quiet – serene – calm…..just the right place to be to escape the hustle-and-bustle of the city. I took a long sweeping look from the left to the right taking in the walls and the dome over my head. It literally took my breath away – stained-glass windows – its colors heightened by the glow of sunset. Built atop a mountain this cathedral stands proudly in its old world charm attracting visitors from as far as the outskirts of the city -- a handsome structure which has stood the passing of time and inside its walls nothing less in beauty. The main altar stretched out to the dome ceiling with a masterpiece of art etched on its stained-glass wall. My gaze followed the intricate lines from the floor to the top and down again. Here a little to the side stood a long-legged candle-holder - its flame glistening softly from a candle held by a glass holder (yes, in stained-glass too) - a small unobtrusive presence in the midst of such towering magnificence.
I was made speechless in the moment and in the presence of such exquisite beauty. Yet as all good things must come to an end, like coming to the end of a good show, a gentle curtain of extinguishing glow fell into the room. The sun was disappearing in the far horizon. Light was snuffed out in all of the glass walls in a falling curtain of darkness except for one solitary lighted candle holder. Surprised I gasped in awe amazed at the sight of the beautiful play of light and colors from a small stained-glass candle holder -- unremarkable just a few minutes ago but now a burst of brilliance unmatched by all the glass on the walls of the cathedral!
People – they come in different sizes, shapes, colors, temperaments, attitudes, in myriad colors of character and eccentricity, and personal histories. They touch our lives in many different ways when they cross paths with us. They sparkle and shine as life carries them through the many stations in their journey. Each come to interplay with various experiences which lead to a colorful display of emotions, wit, brilliance, expression, opinion, insight, belief, perception -- and on the opposite end bias, prejudice preconception, presumption, and more, These make up the whole person with whom we interconnect with day by day. Beautiful, isn’t it? But true beauty ---- where does it lie??
When fortunes turn sour, when failure looms high above you, when the small irritations of the day gnaw at your calm and composure, when relationships disappoint, when dreams shatter, when debts soar, when spouses betray trust, when your own stable world is unhinged at the seams without warning, and when you are there tittering on the edge of indecision – when all of these dark forces threaten to snuff out the light and brilliance of your day and of yourself, what do you do?
My mom summed it all up with how she lived her life. It was a life strewn with all conceivable trouble and distress. And looking back now I wonder just how God can sometimes be so unfair heaping up all the burdens on the shoulders of this small fragile gentle woman. Well, did she cry? Complain? Get mad? Get gloomy and depressed or bitter and resentful? Yes, all of that and yet everything too were left at His feet in prayer. Then she carried on with her life with what she had. She rose with every fall, trudged on doggedly with courage and strength and remarkable faith renewed each time, I wondered how. Through my child’s eyes I watched her drag her weary feet through the hills and valleys of a sparse life as she took on the role of raising a family. I saw her in my young child’s eye astoundingly as the most beautiful woman in the world. She still is even long after she has gone. But I see better now and understand the wisdom of God’s outstanding work.
This is true beauty – the beauty of the soul - beauty which shines even more brilliantly even when darkness sets in. True beauty as revealed only when its light is from within. Indeed.
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in; their true beauty is revealed only if their light is from within.” ----- (Elizabeth Kubler Ross)