12th April 2023

On the ‘Suffering and Sickness’ window, Job’s NT partner is the woman suffering from an incurable haemorrhage. Her problem is twofold: there is not only physical distress but also mental anguish, for by Levitical law her condition denied her any physical contact with other people. This may well explain why she only wanted to touch the edge of Jesus’ garment, because no way did she want to contaminate him. For twelve years her condition made her a prisoner in her own home. In the gospel story the doctors do not come out well: the woman spent all she had on medical care but instead of getting better her health deteriorated. But Geoffrey Robinson is more appreciative of doctors’ skills. At the top of the window are symbols of medical professionalism, whilst below, a blood transfusion and surgery in progress in an operating theatre depict best medical practice as it was in 1970, the date of the window. In the gospel story the patient convinces herself that if she can but touch the hem of Jesus’ garment she can be healed. This she achieves, she thinks quite anonymously, but Jesus aware of the healing, asks, ’Who touched me?‘, which, given the crowds, the disciples judge a quite unreasonable question. But it is enough for the woman to confess her action, prompting Jesus to say, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering’. [Mark 5: 34] The composition of the window suggests to me that the artist does not see faith-healing and modern medicine opposed to one another, but rather as complementary – the patient who recovers from modern surgery is no less dependent on faith in God than someone receiving healing after prayer but without medical intervention. Thus it is that Robinson draws his two figures together with the words, ‘TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND TO ALL THROUGH PAIN AND SUFFERING GIVE GLORY TO HIM’.

John Briggs