On Saint Athanasius
Reflections upon a stained glass window
Your painted gaze bores holes in me. Seated on a throne, legs apart like an arrogant colossus, draped in folds of red and violet, you are clutching a staff on top of which sits a snake of gold, its rubied-eyes also looking right at me. On your head is what looks very much like a crown and it finalises just how different we are – you and I – I whose brow is covered only in worries and even – shockingly – sometimes mirth. Your eyes seem to suggest that you would not approve of my mirth, but maybe that's unfair; maybe it's my worries that would cause you distress.
“God became man so that man may become God” is written underneath – in German. If it were Latin I could turn it into a chant; English would become a poem; but in German it almost seems as if you're shouting it. Divinization it's called, what you're shouting, and that – along with the searing eyes, the lavish dress, that unnerving snake – goes further to separate us, you and me. You on your throne seem almost divine, but I am sitting on a bench of wood. Your words will endure even should your painted window shatter into a thousand bejewelled pieces, and mine may be forgotten. You bravely battled heretics with the force of your character, and I so frequently slink into indecision and apathy. You all but shout with conviction, and I sometimes cannot even muster the hum of a whine. This divinization of which you speak? I'm not sure it's for the likes of me.
And yet your eyes bore holes in me and I cannot help but be challenged and, being challenged, I cannot help but think about what you say, and, thinking about what you say, cannot help but hope. If God became man so that man could become God … well … that includes me, doesn't it? Dare I hope, ordinary, grey, finite me? Can it really be so?
I look at your eyes again. Perhaps I've misread them. They will allow for mirth, I think. But not distress. “God became man so that man may become God” I hear again, in my own tongue, almost like a mother's whisper. It is for me. I need not be in distress. Old Athanasius has assured me.