Theology Update for the Week of February 6, 2022

Father Matthew Moretz (photo credit: Alan Barnett)

Dear Friends in Christ,

Join us this Sunday, February 6 at 10:00am when I will continue an open-ended series on the stained glass of our parish. Using high quality images collected by Julie L. Sloan during the recent restoration of the glass (2007-2016), I will lead you through a careful theological reading of our windows, created between 1927 and 1974. As with the reredos, there is so very much to discover in this extraordinary iconographic scheme that was developed by the Whitefriars’ designer, James H. Hogan.

As with my presentation on the reredos, my goal will be to unlock the theological meaning of our sacred art, while dealing only briefly with the history of the provenance and restoration of the works. These windows are our constant companions, but they are also difficult to view completely, without some effort. I see it as a time to enrich our faith as we learn more about the history and heritage that these beautiful works reveal.

These lectures will be available, ultimately, on-demand on our website. And when they are available, I will direct you to them here.

When speaking about the “Longsuffering, Peace” window in the Chantry Chapel, we had talked about the image of the Pelican at the top of the window. I had referred to it as an image of Christ, noting that it was considered as such because of an ancient understanding of animal behavior. I have found one of the old bestiaries, “The Book of Beasts” a Latin Bestiary from the 12th century translated by T.H. White. And I though it might be illuminating to quote the entry on “Pelicanus”:

Pelicanus, the Pelican, is a bird which lives in the solitude of the River Nilce, whence it takes its name. The point is that, in Greek, Egypt is called Canopos. The Pelican is excessively devoted to its children. But when these have been born and begin to grow up, they flap their wings, and the parents, striking back, kill them. Three days afterward, the mother pierces her breast, opens her side, and lays herself across her young, pouring out her blood over the dead bodies. This brings them to life again.

In the same way, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the originator and maker of all created things, begets us and calls us into being out of nothing. We, on the contrary, strike him in the face. As the prophet Isaiah says: “I have borne children and exalted them and truly they have scorned me.” We have struck him in the face by devoting ourselves to the creation rather than the creator.

That was why he ascended into the height of the cross, and, his side having pierced, there came from it blood and water for our salvation and eternal life.

A heady mix of piety and creative speculation, a bit like a theological fable. The Bestiary is replete with such testimony! You may find it here.

You are welcome to join us in person on the Fifth Floor of the Parish House. Contact us for more information and login credentials.

Grace and peace to you,

Fr. Matthew Moretz+