Catholic Corner
July 25, 2021

The light shines in the darkness,
And the darkness did not overcome it. Jn 1: 5

Light is a primary Christian symbol and an ancient one at that! Our tradition has acclaimed from its earliest roots that Christ is the light of the world and the Church has found numerous ways of presenting this reality in worship, art and architecture.   The theme of light and the manifest ways that it can be encounters are defining elements of our space, changing, and made ever new depending on the time of day and season of the year.

The Paschal fire is lit and blessed each Easter Vigil in the Easter fire pit which is shaped in the familiar mandorla or almond shape of the Church.  The mandorla is a symbol of the meeting place between heaven and earth, and thus it makes an appropriate shape upon which to light the Easter fire. Once the fire is blessed, the new Paschal Candle is blessed in turn as a primary symbol of the light of Christ. The Paschal Candle, its full meaning, the process of its creation and use in the space will be explored separately but for now let’s note that the monumental nature of the candle signals its importance as a symbol of Christ, and one met at baptisms, funerals, and the proclamation of the Word in the Easter Season.

The theme of light is found in both the stain glass and clear windows in the space.  There are two stain glass windows both designed by Stephen Wilson and fabricated by Stephen Wilson Stained Glass Studio.  Facing east, above the monumental Doors is the Resurrection stain glass window. It is encountered by the community as they are dismissed at the end of the liturgy and go forth to live the life of the risen Christ.

Stephen Wilson has described the window as follows:

This window is based on an unfolding azalea blossom. The petal-shaped forms repeat through the clerestory as if to say “new life in Christ our Lord is for all humanity.” The round shapes beginning with the grey circle as the stone was rolled away are as a stone thrown into water, rippling concentrically through the universe that Christ has redeemed through his shed blood, represented, of course, by the reds. May this window inspire all to worship in this marvelous church.

The second stain glass window is in the Reservation Chapel. This window faces West towards the Columbarium and draws inspiration from the nearby Potomac River, its currents and obstacles.  Within the window you will find stones, plants, rainbows and Christ’s lifted hand along with the flow of Christ’s blood into the current of our sorrows.

Often people look at the clear glass that surrounds the assembly and the large clear panels that mark the end of the West wall of the Nave and ask if more stain glass is planned. The majority of this glass is meant to be clear, inviting the natural environment into the space. As the time of day and season of the year changes so too the quality of light within the space changes, adding a constant shifting and sense of life to the interplay of light. Reflections from the Resurrection window may be found in unexpected ways and places heightening the prayer experience within the space.

The main banks of windows along the back of the seating sections are also part of the Long range planning of the parish! They are designed to be removed and allow for a doubling of the size of the space when the time comes!!! At the end of each aisle there are also narrow banks of double paned windows and these are specially fitted to incorporate stain glass if the community decides to add to do so at a future date.

Finally, many of the elements of the space are tied together by reflective light through the use of dichroic glass.  The use of this glass can be found along the bottom of the baptismal font in a spiraling nautilus pattern, as detailing along the Presiders chair and on the edges of the Altar and the Ambo where there are lines of dichroic glass that catch and magnify the light and reflect it back into the space.