By Claire Alexander
A faint light from the memory of the sunset gleamed through the high, stained-glass window, barely outlining the beams overhead. Forming the vault of the darkened church in a reverse V, several extended sets of arms or wings could be made out with the glow, as though God sent his angels to bless and protect the gathering.
Flames of tiny tea lights flickered on a table as we sang, over and over, Taizé meditations such as “Let nothing disturb you” [Nada te turbo], and Psalm 27:14, “Wait on the Lord.”
With separate doors into the sanctuary, and the foyer of the church entrance enclosed by a normal ceiling, church members don’t often look up, up above that ceiling to the arched vault and stained glass window below the peaked roof. In response to the darkness, my eyes sought the only faint light in the distance—the varicoloured light barely filtering through the glass.
The window fitted right into the peak of the roof. In my mind’s eye, I could imagine a small child drawing her apartment building like a tall house with a pointed roof, the way we used to draw houses in kindergarten. I saw afresh the wooden cross, fully filling the shape of this tall, multi-coloured window. Suddenly, the reading from Philippians 2:6-11, and even individual words, unfolded before my eyes, as we sat on the platform in the choir chairs.
Christ Jesus, though he was God, emptied himself. The wooden cross symbolized the depth of becoming a slave, born in human likeness. “He became obedient,” the reading went on, “to the point of death—even death on a cross.” As the cross on the window merged with the apex of both the window and the roof, the word “point” in the translation jumped out at me like the point of an arrowhead.
The humanity of our Lord Jesus, his descent to earth, his humility, his sacrifice of his eternal relationship with the Father, his death, all converged abruptly at a point in time, viewed from our side. They collided with infinity, and could not cross the barrier, just as the top of the wooden cross stopped dead with the angle of the roof.
But the reading didn’t stop there. “Therefore also God highly exalted him”; from the cross Christ was raised, exalted far above and beyond the high window at which I gazed. He became my Lord—to the glory of God—and my Lord, too, as I bent my knees in awe and worship, the wonder of his gift flooding over me. And arched beams overhead seemed to express the breadth of his arms not only welcoming me, but wooing me into his dear embrace.
Philippians 2:6-8 (New Living Translation)
6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.