This image links the notion of ‘shalom’ (written here in Hebrew) to what is described in the chapter as “vandalized shalom.” The glass is composed of fragments, most clearly shattered in the bottom half. The dove, which represents peace or ‘shalom,’ is itself fragmented and inverted. Preparation for death helps to rescue us from vandalized ‘shalom.’Page 232
Dr. Dugdale’s description of “vandalized shalom” in Chapter 7 is a part of that chapter I did not quote from or comment upon in our previous discussion posts. Here is the most relevant paragraph:
Broken bodies, broken communities, a broken world–a friend of mine calls this “vandalized ‘shalom.'” ‘Shalom,’ the Hebrew word for “peace,” refers to peace in its most robust sense: wholeness, harmony, flourishing. Vandalized peace, my friend says, means not just laboring to build the boat but striving to bail the boat, which has sprung leaks everywhere. Removing a cancerous tumor should bring ‘shalom.’ But vandalized ‘shalom’ means not just having the tumor removed, but striving to stay afloat amidst the complications of surgery, the side effects of chemotherapy, and the frustrations of a prolonged hospital stay.Page 150
My first thoughts about this image of “vandalized shalom” have to do with the medium of stained glass. As Dr. Dugdale rightly says, “Stained glass can be found in churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship, as well as in cemeteries and funeral parlors” (page 232). But it is also true that the most famous and extensive use of stained glass was in the medieval cathedrals of Europe. One of the most famous and glorious uses of stained glass is the rose window in the north transept of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris:
This window is in a Christian cathedral and its unifying center is an image of Jesus and Mary. It is also a magnificent expression of the wholeness, harmony, and flourishing that, according to Dr. Dugdale, characterize shalom.
In presenting this image of the Notre Dame rose window alongside the modern stained glass rendering in our book, I do not want to turn our discussion into a comparison between medieval vs. modern art. I find it interesting, however, that Michael W. Dugger chose to depict the chaotic brokenness of “vandalized shalom” in a medium famous for images of ordered wholeness.
It seems like the upper two thirds of Dugger’s image does convey peace. If we saw it in color, I imagine it would be a beautiful picture of green and grey valleys, hills, and mountains with a sky of varying shades of blue backgrounding the Hebrew text. What would the lower third look like? Would there be sickly brownish greens or yellows? Would the edges where the pains of glass render the transfixed body of the dove have bloody reds?
In comparing these two images, I also find it interesting how the material between the glass pains functions in the overall pictures. In the upper two thirds of Dugger’s image, the pains of glass are separated by thin lines that seem to serve as transitions between complimentary colors. In the lower third, the separation between pains is wide, with the intervening material emphasizing the devisions between the parts of the dove. In the Notre Dame window, the spaces between the pains of glass are part of the image of an ordered whole. It seems impossible that the eye should focus on the glass without also focusing on the “spokes” that surround the pains and draw them into concentric unity.
In summary, the material between the glass pains seem to serve, in Dugger’s upper part, to facilitate harmony by being minimized, in Dugger’s lower part, to illustrate brokenness by being emphasized, and in the Notre Dame window, to convey unified wholeness by being part of it.
What does this have to do with the spirits of mortal humans doomed to die? Surely, you will find answers to that question that I have not. For my part, I will conclude with a quote from St. Paul that is recalled to my mind by this image of juxtaposed bodily brokenness and spiritual peace.
Although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.2 Corinthians 4:16-17