"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.
~ John 12: 23-26
Our meditations on the windows at First continue today with #3 and #4: the wheat and the butterfly. It is interesting that in most churches, the sheaves of wheat are paired side by side with grapes, symbolizing the elements of Holy Communion. Indeed, this is so in our Chapel. Not so in our Sanctuary. Here the wheat is placed side by side with a butterfly and becomes a specific reference to the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The association between wheat and the Passion of Jesus Christ comes from John's gospel, quoted above, and wheat is often placed on the coffin of the departed at Christian funerals. The metaphor is immediate and powerful because it employs the profound human experience of the earth and the harvest that is the fruit of sowing dry, dusty seeds. The "fruits" that come from the new plant are like the seed that was sown in appearance, smell, taste, etc., and yet each one is unique. Thus, the servants of Jesus are like him and yet unique.
The butterfly, likewise, is a symbol of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead: a caterpillar entombs itself in its veil of silk only to emerge more strange, beautiful, and wonderful than before. The central body of the caterpillar is still present, but the rest of it is transfigured into the airborne miracle of the butterfly. So the broken and tortured body of the crucified Jesus is recognizable in the wounds of the Resurrected Christ, but the creator has turned his tomb from a place of decay into a play of transformation and new birth! His new life reveals the mystery and miracle of a spiritual body!
Source: Ferguson, George. Signs and Symbols in Christian Art (Oxford: 1961)