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Mystery in Sacred Glass

Kilkenny City in the southeast of Ireland is full of antiquities and the Dominican Order has been present in the city since 1225. One of the greatest treasures of Kilkenny is the great Rosary window of the Dominican Black Abbey which boasts to be the largest stained glass window in Ireland. The window was created in 1892 by the Mayers Stained Glass Company of Munich Germany and is composed of five lights of vertical panels each depicting five mysteries of the Rosary.

From the outside this great window looks dark and dreary but once you enter the Abbey Church the window comes alive reflecting the sunlight that passes through the tiny panels of glass which make up each mystery. The Sun reveals the beauty and splendor of the craftsmanship of the window, the Son of God reveals through the heart of his Mother the splendor of his life in the Rosary which is depicted in this window. It is truly from within the Church through the experience of faith and life that we can see the Church for what she really is, something splendid and beautiful. The Church like the Black abbey’s window is illuminated with the grace of Christ which comes to us through Mary. Christ fills his body the Church with the splendor of light but in order for us to experience this splendor we have to enter a building which may seem old and tired, perhaps at times musty and even irrelevant to modern living.

The Rosary window of Kilkenny, reminds us of the divine light which streams through the mysteries of Christ’s life. What may seem ordinary and perhaps dimmed is in fact always luminous. We too may have become too accustomed to the mysteries we pray daily in the Rosary and out of simple routine we may become cold to them and indifferent. When we take up our beads we must ask the Virgin to see her child as she sees him. To use her heart to love what she loves, and to use her lips to speak of him as she speaks of him to us in these mysteries.

Each mystery of the Rosary allows the splendid light of Christ Jesus to illuminate the darkness of our lives, our church and the world. We can never exhaust the mysteries of Jesus but rather we may allow them slowly to change us, to fill us with his light and to allow him to radiate his joy to others through us.

As we take up our beads again and again, we must allow the Rosary mysteries become windows into our own souls, to pierce the darkness with light and to allow us to reflect that light into our families, our society and our world. The glass of the Rosary window stands firm in ancient walls which date from 1225, those who pray the mysteries of Jesus stand firm in the heart of a gentle maiden who allowed the light of the Holy Spirit to illumine her. Mary is the true window which allows us to see and contemplate her Son.

“Christianity without Mary adores a God who is not human. Christianity without Christ is a building without foundation. Christianity without the Mother of Christ is a building without cement. The Mother of Jesus is not a sentimental addition; she is an essential part of Christianity.” (Fr. Vincent McNabb, O.P. )

Fr. John Hyacinth Walsh, O.P.

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