Dot Hunt’s memorial window consists of a representation of bells and butterflies, poppies and snowdrops, and the words Faith, Love, Hope; a kind of thread connecting all these elements there are seven circles of plain convex glass magnifying the light.
What does it all mean? The ‘official’ interpretation is that the bells represent Dot’s unique and amazing ‘Ding-along’ Christmas Day Services. The poppies stand, of course, for remembrance – in this instance of Dot, and the many personal sacrifices she made in her service of the Christian Gospel. The two butterflies commemorate two of Dot’s siblings who died around the same time as Dot herself. The snowdrops symbolise the promise of new life. The virtues of faith, hope and love were hallmarks of Dot’s character; and the seven circles indicate the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of The Lord.
If we substitute the words encouragement for counsel, perseverance for fortitude, devotion for piety, and constant awareness of God’s presence for fear of The Lord (and they are just different descriptions of the same things), then we are given an insight into the way Dot lived her life and expressed her faith.
I would like to add a further interpretation of these symbols.
In the window the image of the bells is connected to the word Faith. A bell is an instrument whose principal purpose is to make a loud noise to the glory of God. It celebrates with those who rejoice (at a wedding for instance), it condoles with those who mourn (at a funeral). It summons the faithful to come, if they can, to pray; and if they can’t come, on hearing its noise to pray anyway. It reminds and challenges the Christian to give expression to that faith, whether vocal or otherwise, with the purpose of giving glory to God.
The poppies in the window are connected to the word Love. Jesus proclaims that there is no greater demonstration of love than the sacrifice of life itself for the good of others. He offered the irrefutable truth of this by his sacrifice for us all on the cross. He invites his followers to take up their own personal and particular cross each day to prove to the world the reality of their discipleship. part of that lies in the acknowledgement, with gratitude, of the sacrifices that others have made for us, and of those who, day by day, give themselves to the service and welfare of us all.
The word Hope is linked to the snowdrops depicted in the window. Snowdrops appear when we are still locked in the darkest, coldest and deadest time of the year. They are Nature’s assertion that light, warmth and life will return anew and are, thus, a sign of hope – in Christian terms – of the Resurrection. Life is of God, and God is indestructible.
Dot had a thing about butterflies if they appeared in church. She regarded them as a token of divine approval and of the presence of the Holy Spirit. A butterfly is a creature of beauty which emerges from a grave-like chrysalis after a sometimes rather ugly and occasionally poisonous prior existence. They can be said, therefore, to represent the Risen Life to which Christ wills us by the grace of the Holy Spirit. In the window the image of the two butterflies link the symbols of faith at the top and hope at the bottom by flanking the word love at the heart of the whole scheme.
Which brings us to the seven circles of light. It has already been stated that the original idea is that these represent the gifts of the Holy Spirit and they are listed above. they might equally stand for the seven virtues or fruits of the Holy Spirit: the proof of the pudding so to speak. They are these: Faith, Hope Love (the so-called Theological Virtues already depicted), and the remaining four so-called Cardinal Virtues, Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Patience. the butterflies might also then represent Joy and Peace which are also fruits of the Holy Spirit.
The seven circles can also stand for the seven Corporal Acts of Mercy, namely: to provide food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, clothing for the naked, shelter for the homeless, to minister to the sick, to visit those in prison and to provide burial for the dead.
Since they serve to magnify light, the circles (and let us remember that the circle is an emblem of eternity and divinity) may also represent the seven Sacraments, i.e., Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, Ordination, Absolution, Holy Communion, Extreme Unction; whereby the grace of God is channelled to sanctify life from the cradle to the grave.
So there we have it. A simple window, but a wealth of meanings upon which to ponder. As George Herbert put it: ‘A man that looks on glass on it may stay his eye, or if he chooseth through it pass and then the heaven espy’.
Written by Rev Ian Ellery