The stained-glass windows in our Chapel faithfully lend themselves to awe and inspiration. From my seat in choir, I often gaze at these beautiful iconic windows during the silent pauses between the chanting of the Psalms. One of my favorites is the window of St. Gertrude and I never grow tired of pondering its meaning and relevance.
St. Gertrude (1256-1302) was a Benedictine nun of Helfta Abbey in Germany. Her writings speak of divine intimacy and mystical dialogue with her loving God and she has been proclaimed as a “Herald of Divine Love:”
St. Gertrude was the herald of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus−that sacred cult which has become so clear and which has proved a fountain of consolation and grace to millions of Christians. Our Divine Savior repeatedly disclosed to her His Divine Heart, the furnace of love, as though for her sake He could not await the time decreed by His eternal wisdom for the revelations of His Heart…The mystery of mercy and love contained in that Divine Heart had been revealed to her by the Son of God Himself four centuries before it became an object of special devotion to the Church at large.
~Saint Gertrude the Great: The Herald of Divine Love (TAN Books, 2002)
This beautiful window depicting St. Gertrude is located at the transept of the chapel, between our choir stalls and the Eucharistic table, thus reminding us of the primacy of community prayer in our lives. During my meditation this morning, I pictured our Sisters of the 1930’s at a community meeting discussing what saints would be appropriate for our stained-glass windows. Because our monastery is named after the Sacred Heart, their choice of St. Gertrude is no surprise. Its position in the chapel is no surprise. Its beauty is no surprise. Our Sisters had the foresight to choose this saint as a model for us in being faithful to Jesus’ love and sharing this love with all those we meet.
The message I receive as I gaze on this illuminating portrait is Jesus’ words from John 15: 9-10: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”
This window depicts St. Gertrude with open hands encircling Jesus’ heart within her. There is an openness which invites all to share in this love. The Latin words “ipsi soli” (His alone) surrounds the heart and speaks of Jesus’ total love in divine union. The Spirit hovers over St. Gertrude’s left shoulder as a sign of God’s everlasting Presence.
I think St. Benedict would certainly have approved of this window for our Sacred Space. Perhaps he would have added his own words in a caption beneath it:
“But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.” RB, Prol. 40
“O God of love and gentleness,
O heart that abounds
with loving kindness
O heart that overflows with charity,
O heart that radiates pleasantness,
O heart full of compassion.
We thank you for your heart
full of love for us.
Invite us into your heart
that we may be totally transformed into love.”
–from Exercises of St. Gertrude, adapted by Ruth Fox, OSB
By Sister Priscilla Cohen, OSB