Fifteen years ago, when my family and I visited Rome, the one thing that struck me was the incredible attention to creative beauty that was almost everywhere - the fountains, statues, and architecture, and especially the beauty of the churches built to honor and worship our creator. You could find in most countries, and even small towns, a desire to build a space of awe and beauty where people could come together and to let their souls soar for a few moments, no matter what their struggles in life. In Northern France, there are incredible churches, such as Notre Dame and Chartres, where the gothic style masterpieces of architecture can take your breath away as you try to take in all the magnificence and the attention to detail. That detail, and those symbols, often teach us about our faith and guides us to what is important in life. One of the best examples this is the incredibly intricate and profoundly beautiful rose window, with its circular and colorful design, all revolving around the center.
The rose window is a visual marvel, but also a symbol of a well-ordered soul and life. At the center of the window is usually Jesus Christ, and everything else fits, makes sense, and works when placed around that center. In our lives, we have many priorities that we believe we hold and then we have our real priorities that we actually give our time, attention and lives to. We may often put ourselves at the center and try to fit everyone and everything thing around that self-referential approach to life. Or our focus may be on acquiring wealth or material goods, or on accomplishment and recognition. We may even put others at the center, and work to fit ourselves and maybe even God into the picture somewhere. The problem with any of those other focal points for our hearts, minds and souls is that they don’t hold, they don’t work, or they don’t bring us to the fullness of the truth and life we were created for.
Once we consciously allow God to be at the center of our being, the real priorities in life begin find their proper place around that center. The meaning and purpose of those priorities in life begin to make sense, and gain the strength and wisdom of God’s plans now guiding us. God’s love is unconditional and he has a loving plan for each of us. From the time of Adam and Eve to this very day, we tend to lean towards our own plans over trusting in God’s plans for us and his grace to surrender to it. If God exists, and the evidence tells us that he does, then he tells us that we are all created in his image. The only source to truly know ourselves, is to trust in his plan and follow his lead. While that sounds like giving up freedom, this is actually the real choice in life that gives us true freedom to be ourselves, without worry of being judged or rejected by others, or even ourselves. When Jesus came into the world as one of us, he showed us that God was a community of love and could only be understood in relationship to Christ, the Holy Spirit and to each of us.
Allowing God to be that center in our lives, never takes away from anything us but only gives our lives fullness and meaning. Even in our marriage, putting God first and at the center, allows us to love, enjoy, and know our spouse even more. It is God’s love, grace and strength that allows us to love our husband or wives in a way we could not without him at the center. With him, the commitment to the covenant of marriage is possible. Always forgiving and truly accepting our spouse, and ourselves, unconditionally becomes not only possible, but desirable. The Trinity is a loving community of three, as our marriages are truly a loving community of three and reflects the image we are made for.
Next time you have an opportunity, visualize and meditate on a picture of the rose window. Picture yourself moving whatever else may actually be occupying that center spot in your life and allow God to take that spot. Then ask God to help guide you to the next most important thing in your life and picture it moving into one of the petals or spots around that center and repeat this for the other real priorities in your life. Ask God to guide you and to know his plan for you (“Thy will be done.”) The picture and placement of the priorities in your life may begin to become clearer and different than they have been.
The rose window may be a beautiful work of art to gaze upon, but it may also be a useful tool in prayer and meditation to keep us all on the right track with God, the only source of knowing ourselves, at the center.