Tuesday, 23 August 2011

St Francis

Tricker has found great spiritual joy and enlightenment in studying St Francis, and with him his dear soul-sister, St Clare. Both saints were children of light, and the format of the stained glass window is especially appropriate.

Even non-Christians often recognise the name of St Francis, who epitomises that gentleness, humility and freedom from material possessions that are inherent to the Christ Journey. He exerts a universal fascination. He was a small man, and he fits neatly into his window, the Umbrian hills rolling behind him. He has turned his back on the securities of the world, indicated by the massive tower on his right. Yet, he was summoned by God ‘to rebuild the church’. Francis took it literally, and a small church arises on his left, but it was a greater Church to which he was really summoned.

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries were as material a time as our own, and Francis, like Jesus his Master, preached a way of freedom. As we well know, his awareness of unity of all creation led him to talk to the birds, here clustering around his feet. Perhaps the white dove that he holds to his heart is a silent reminder that there is no love without peace. There is also no love without a willingness to suffer, and Francis was privileged to receive on his body the wounds of Christ, the stigmata. Tricker does not show those wounds. His emphasis is rather on an even greater characteristic of love and that is its awareness of joy. The great gold ball of the sun seems to roll down the hillside, recalling Francis’ hymn to Brother Sun, that great Christian Canticle of Joy.

Picture © Nigel Noyes

Text and picture are extracts from the book The Christ Journey published by ST PAULS, which can be purchased here.