(Part 2 of a 6-part series based on an interview with George Hoelzeman, liturgical artist and Medieval scholar.)
In the theology of light, says Hoelzeman, God is Light (Light from Light), and light signifies the presence of God, who “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16). Light is revelatory, making all visible. Throughout history, mankind has looked to the East for new light, for new life, towards the gods and creation. Jesus Christ is called the Morning Star, the Dawn from on high. And in Revelations, the radiance of the light of God fills the City of God. “And the City had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Revelation 21:22-25).
In the Middle Ages, we see the advent of stained glass windows in churches on a grand scale. The refraction of the light through these windows transformed the space within, with color playing off of every surface, changing common sunlight into holy light. This colored light affected all aspects of the liturgy and emphasized the nature of divine light, revealing the transformational nature of Christ. Saints were depicted in stained glass, with halos of light around their heads illustrating the radiance of the saints in heaven, their earthly bodies transformed by their relationship with Christ.
The glass windows of the churches bend light, transforming it and rendering it anew, reminding us of the promise of heaven and life anew in Christ.
(Next: The Quest for Beauty.)