The Ven Clive Mansell: The Great East Window

May 13, 2020
Posted in Volunteers
May 13, 2020 Joe

It is staggeringly big, – the height being “almost the length of a cricket wicket”, an image which appeals to this cricket-lover, but the window overwhelms the attention of the onlooker even more than the approaching fast-bowler grips the eyes of an opening batsman.

The window’s stonework dates back to c 1300, – over 700 years ago. It soars upwards from its base and lifts the eyes heavenwards. There, in its upper structure, it celebrates the eternal God, symbolised by many geometric circles, a shape with no beginning and no end. More than that, it proclaims God the Holy Trinity, the Three-in-One and One in-Three, by its playful use of more complex intertwined geometric images – triquetras with three-in-one wings and triple-yet-single leaves like those of the shamrock or the clover.   

Here, the stone, which surely must weigh very heavily to hold or carry, seemingly dances alive and free, silently and confidently echoing the praises sung so often below by choirs and people in languages old and new – “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it as in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”

Here, as you move to the East of the cathedral, you are encouraged to put your earthly worries, hopes and concerns into a fresh perspective as you glimpse and glory in the reality of the eternal God.

The stonework is 700 years old, but the stained-glass within it dates back only some 170 years, but what an impression it makes, especially in the huge figures of the risen Jesus and his closest disciples. Here are reminders of those once unknown and ordinary people whose lives were transformed by their knowing Jesus Christ before and after his death and resurrection. So changed by him were they that they played their part in changing the world by sharing faith in their Saviour and Lord with all who would hear it and receive it. He was someone whom they lived for, someone whom some of them died for, and someone in whom they trusted and hoped. 

In their message and example we are to find encouragement and inspiration. In their companionship across time and eternity, we are to journey onward in our earthly pilgrimage.

Below these mighty figures in glass, we see the high altar, surrounded by the gilded and glittering figures of early Christianity in the North of our land in Sir Ninian Comper’s post-World War 1 reredos, and surmounted by the statues of the risen and ever youthful Christ and of St Michael and St George slaying dragons. Here, hope is proclaimed, that, in Christ, life will triumph over death and good will triumph over evil.

I feel a huge wistfulness whenever I turn away from the soaring great East window and all that is within it and below it, but I leave strengthened by its images and its messages and by its capacity to express and renew my faith.

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