The South Rose Window of the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris
La claire-voie de la Rose Sud
- “Under the rosette, the heavenly court is represented by the sixteen prophets, portrayed under the large windows of the bay, which were painted in the 19th century by Alfred Gérente, under Viollet-le-Duc’s supervision. The architect drew inspiration from Chartres Cathedral, placing the four great prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel) carrying the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) on their shoulders, at the centre. This window echoes the reflections of Bertrand, Bishop of Chartres in the 13th century, on the connection between the Old and New Testaments:
- ‘We are all dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants. We see more than they do, not because our vision is clearer there or because we are taller, but because we are lifted up, due to their giant scale.’
In a previous “Advent Lesson,” I spoke about the wise and proper use of lenses. Each of us uses his/her own lenses in order to view the world. This is called a “worldview.” Since it is impossible to view the world without lenses, it is imperative that we choose the lens that gives us the most clear view. I spoke earlier about kaleidoscopes, magnifying glasses, and telescopes. Among these, I suggested that the telescope was the wisest choice, in order to see further and more clearly.
We who desire fervently to reclaim, revision, and restore the Season of Advent have received a priceless unopened gift — an inheritance! Receiving this inheritance is like opening the gift of a high-powered, finely engineered telescope.
“Wise Christians should always be historians in one sense. They sit higher and can see further, more panoramically, if they enrich themselves from the past. John of Salisbury [1115-1180] a medieval scholar, spoke of the jewels, the riches, the prestige of antiquity. He was right. The past has bequeathed to us its gems. Note his wise words:
‘Our own generation enjoys the legacy bequeathed to it by that which preceded it. We frequently know more, not because we have moved ahead by our own natural ability, but because we are supported by the [mental] strength of others, and possess riches that we have inherited from our forefathers. Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to [puny] dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.’
Our brothers and sisters from the past, indwelt by the same Spirit who indwells us, have left us a rich inheritance. It’s locked away inside a treasure chest. It’s layered in cobwebs. It’s rusty and in some ways not very appealing. But inside is the wealth John of Salisbury told us about: diamonds, emeralds, gold sovereigns, and chains of Spanish silver. If you have ever wanted to go on a treasure hunt, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve already found the chest. The hard, laborious work is done. All we need do is dip our hands inside and let the riches run through our fingers. Come along, and you’ll be sitting higher and further.”
[Resource for Margot’s Commentary: Pocket History of the Church, D. Jeffrey Bingham, InterVarsity Press, 2002.]
Note from Margot:
Between now and Epiphany, I hope to share more about this inheritance and how opening this gift will help us to revision, reclaim, and restore the Season of Advent.
Can anyone explain the difference between the names “Bertrand” and “Bernard,” referring to the Bishop of Chartres?
One response to “Advent Lesson Nine: “On the Shoulders of Giants””
I love this perspective. Can’t wait to see what the treasure chest holds. I think i have a clue….