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Talitha cumi

One of my favorite things about the nave at my church is the “Talitha Cumi” window. Mark’s story of Jesus’ raising a twelve-year-old girl from death is one of my favorite Gospel stories. And this is a wonderful image, presented in deep, rich colors: Jesus stands over the little girl, holding her hand, while her anxious parents kneel at the foot of the bed. I’ve loved this window since my first visit to the church, and I have an excellent view of it from my seat on the deacon side of the front of the church.

This morning, during the sermon, my eyes wandered over to that window. And lo! it was transformed. This particular day, this particular moment, the rising sun was shining right through Jesus. His face was almost too bright to look at. A little of the light shone in the faces of the parents, looking up at him in hope. The little girl’s face was shadowed – the side of the window enclosure kept the early sunlight from her face. Yet that fits the moment shown – Jesus’ hand is raised; he is speaking the words that call her back from death. It’s easy to believe that in a moment, the darkness will pass from her face and she, too, will shine like the sun.


The sermon ends – I introduce the Creed – we move on. I forget to look again until the sermon at the 10am service. Now the day’s light is evenly distributed. The stained-glass image looks like I’ve always seen it before. I can see the details, the colors, the beauty – but that transfiguring light that made it come alive is gone.


This, I think, is one of the ways liturgy works. It’s there all the time, reliably beautiful, like the window. You look at it every Sunday, you think about how meaningful the story is. And then, one day, perhaps when you least expect it, perhaps when you most need it, something lines up. You’re sitting in just the right place, and the light shines through it all of a sudden and hits you. The story comes alive – not just frozen images or words but something that carries light and power and grace.


I won’t see that window the same way, from now on. It’s more than just a pretty picture. I’ve seen what it can do. 

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