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The Stained Glass Windows

In bygone centuries, when much of the population was illiterate and the liturgy was done in Latin, stained glass windows served to educate the faithful by depicting saints or Biblical stories. These windows, however, illustrate main tenets of Christianity. The ideas of their subjects were the conceptions of the pastor, Monsignor Armand Pedata.

These windows were made at the Ann Willet Stained Glass Atelier in Springhouse, Pennsylvania. Theirdesigning artist was the late Anthony A. Marko. Mr. Marko attended the Metropolitan Industrial Art School in Budapest, Hungary, and the Academy of Applied Art in Vienna, Austria, before immigrating to the United States from his native Hungary in the early 1950’s. He was a Biblical and Talmudic scholar, and he conducted extensive research for his design work. His stained glass adorns thousands of other churches and buildings across the nation, including the Ohio State University School of Medicine and the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The windows here were his last work, and he did not live to see them completed.

The following descriptions are taken from correspondences from Mr. Marko. They have been augmented by one of our current parochial vicars, Father David Adams. The description of “The Four Evangelists” windows is entirely by Father Adams.

THE FOUR BACK WINDOWS – “THE FOUR EVANGELISTS”

A man, a lion, an ox and an eagle are the traditional symbols of the four Evangelists (the authors of the four Gospels).

In the Old Testament times, the Israelite symbol of an angel was a creature with a head of a man, the front body and claws of a lion, the rear body and powerful hind legs of an ox, and the wings of an angel (cf. Ezekiel 1:5-10 & 10:14-20). These respectively symbolized supreme intelligence and wisdom, conquering power and nobility, working strength, and swift mobility as by flight. In some ancient religions, these four creatures also represented the fours seasons (autumn, summer, spring and winter, respectively); and the number “4” (cf. “the four directions”) was a Jewish symbol for the created universe (apart from heaven). Thus, these four-component creatures were sometimes used to depict all things in creation as being subject to God, and the praise of him as being the true purpose of their existence.

In New Testament times, these four components were separated to become symbols of the four Evangelists and their Gospels (cf. Revelation 4:7). When used to symbolize the four Evangelists, each of the four separate components traditionally is given a nimbus and set of wings (here done in gold), and each holds the Gospel book that he wrote (here with red covers). As one faces the rear of the church from inside it and moves from left to right; these four windows each symbolize one of the four Evangelists in the order in which their Gospels are found in the Bible:

SAINT MATTHEW is symbolized as a man. His Gospel emphasizes Jesus’ humanity and teachings.

SAINT MARK is symbolized as a lion. From the beginning, his Gospel emphasizes Jesus’ supreme authority.

SAINT LUKE is symbolized as an ox. As well as being a working animal, the ox was a sacrificial animalin Old Testament times; and Luke’s Gospel emphasizes Jesus’ miraculous works and his sacrifice on the cross.

SAINT JOHN is symbolized as an eagle. While the other three “synoptic” Gospels resemble each other in many ways, John’s Gospel was written from a more unique point of view, as from a soaring eagle’s perspective.

THE EIGHT BACK SIDE WINDOWS – “THE BEATITUDES”

These windows each symbolize one of the eight Beatitudes, the eight-point overview of Jesus’ teaching from His “Sermon on the Mount” delivered at the beginning of His public ministry as recorded in Matthew 5:3-10. As one faces the rear of the church and moves from right to left, the symbolization in the circle of each window corresponds to one of the following verses (in sequential order), and a cross is included with each depiction. The Biblical translation used here is that of the New American Bible, which is currently used at Masses in the United States.

VERSE 3: “How blest are the poor in spirit: the reign of God is theirs.” A crown is on the superimposed Greek letters Chi (X) and Rho (P)–the Greek abbreviation for “Christ” used, commonly since the earliest days of Christianity—all above a cloud.

VERSE 4: “Blest too are the sorrowing; they shall be consoled.” The traditional standard (heraldic flag) of the resurrection—a red Latin cross on a white background–flies from the staff of a cross above an open grave. Red and white are the liturgical colors for martyrdom and triumph, respectively.

VERSE 5: “Blest are the lowly; they shall inherit the land.” A crown showers rays upon the globe of the earth.

VERSE 6: “Blest are they who hunger and thirst for holiness; they shall have their fill.” An open Torah scroll (the Hebrew test of the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Bible—used at Jewish liturgical ceremonies), an open Bible, and a dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit (cf. John 1:32).

VERSE 7: “Blest are they who show mercy; mercy shall be theirs.” One hand holds the globe of the earth, and the other hand is in a touching, comforting position. This depicts Christian mercy reaching everywhere on earth.

VERSE 8: “Blest are the single-hearted for they shall see God.” A white lily (an Easter-time flower, and a traditional symbol of the resurrection and the sainthood of, the fleur-de-lis) and a white heart. White is the liturgical color for purity, joy and triumph (cf. Revelation 3:4-5 & 7:14).

VERSE 9: “Blest too the peacemaker; they shall be called sons and daughters of God.” A dove bearingan olive branch, both traditional symbols of peace (cf. Genesis 8:8-11).

VERSE 10: “Blest are those persecuted for holiness sake; the reign of God is theirs.” Palm branches (a traditional symbol of martyrdom, cf. Revelation 7:9) flank a crown. The blood-red tone is the liturgical color for martyrs.

THE TWO FRONT WINDOWS – “THE HOLY EUCHARIST”

The two triangular windows above the sanctuary each illustrate one of the two species of Holy Communion. As one faces the sanctuary, the left window shows heads of wheat; a loaf of bread and a host (the “HIS” on the host is the Greek abbreviation for “Jesus,” used commonly since the earliest days of Christianity); and the right window shows a bunch of grapes and a chalice of wine.

THE LARGE LEFT WINDOWS – “THE BLESSED TRINITY”

The central triangle ties the two sides of this window, as well as its individual representations of the three persons of the Trinity, into one unit.

THE FATHER as the Creator is represented semi-abstractly by symbols and colors following both the text of Genesis 1:1-2:4 and the rationality of science.

Color wise, recall that the English physicist Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) split sunlight into a seven-colored spectrum by use of a glass prism, and in the mind of the designing artist, these seven colors and their sequential order “correspond unbelievably correctly” to the seven days of creation. From left to right, first comes purple: God separated light and (purple) darkness on the first day. Next comes blue: God separated the firmament from the (blue) waters on the second day. Next comes green: God created the (green) plants and trees on the third day. Next comes yellow: God created the (yellow) sun, moon and stars on the fourth day. Next comes (orange and) red, the color of blood: God created the animals and human beings on the fifth and sixth days, respectively. Finally, the red blends into purple again to tie in with the purple from the beginning at the left side. Thus, the complete color effect is that of the rainbow.

Symbolically, from left to right, the six circles around the base of the triangle also correspond to the six days of creation and follow the same color scheme outlined above, with a larger circle in the center of the triangle representing the seventh day when creation was finished and God rested. The contrasting colors within the first two circles depict the separation of light from darkness and the waters from the firmament, respectively. The third circle depicts the greening of the earth with vegetation. The sunrays in the fourth circle depict the creation of the celestial bodies. The fifth and sixth circles depict the double Helix of DNA, the basic molecular component of life in animals and human beings.

THE SON is represented to the right by the superimposed Greek letters Chi (X) and Rho (P). These were the first two letters in the Greek work for “Christ.” They have been used in superimposed form since the earliest days of Christianity as a symbolic abbreviation for “Christ,” particularly before the Christian religion was legalized in the year 313. Greek was the language that the New Testament was originally written in.

THE HOLY SPIRIT is represented to the left by the traditional dove (cf. Matthew 3:16, Mark 1”10), here facing the church’s sanctuary.

They mystery of the Blessed Trinity reminds us of God’s continuous presence with us, from the dawn of creation through the lifetime of Jesus, and “always, until the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20) through the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:16-17). This message is echoed by the Old Testament symbolism at the bottom of this window. Across the very bottom (in blue) is the uppermost part of the seven-branch lampstand, the menorah, used in places of Jewish worship as a symbol of Gods presence (cf. Exodus 25:31-40, Zechariah 4:2, Hebrews 9:2). Whips of light blue smoke ascend from its seven lamps. Growing out of its center is the burning bush through which Moses first encountered “the God of Abraham, the God of..all generations” (Exodus 3:1-15).

The shapes of the glass segments are also symbolic. Rigid geometric forms are used in the blue glass of the menorah and the white (clear) glass of the general background to represent the rigid laws of Moses. In contrast, free forms are used in the central colored segments to represent the grace of Jesus Christ (cf. Galatians 3:24-26).

THE LARGEST RIGHT WINDOW – “THE HYPOSTATIC UNION”

This window depicts the mystery of the two natures, one human and the other divine, united in the one person of Jesus Christ.

On the left side is depicted the Annunciation (cf. Luke 1:26-38). The archangel Gabriel stands before the kneeling Mary, and with his extended right hand reassures her, “Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God. You shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus..and he will be called Son of the Most High” (verse 30-32). Gabriel’s left hand points upward to a symbol of the Holy Spirit as he continues, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God” (verse 35). The Holy Spirit is represented by the traditional dove (cf. Luke 3:22), here showering a ray of divinity upon Mary. The ray changes in color from gold to pink, the latter being the symbolic color of virginity (verse 34). The nimbus around the dove is likewise gold and pink, symbolizing the combining of divine and human natures.

The whiteness around the dove cascades down around Mary and then passes through this window’s central division to the figure of Jesus Christ on the right side, thus connecting this window’s two halves together. In the right half, the color scheme expresses Christ’s humanity by following both the symbolism of art and the rationality of science: Around Jesus, the whiteness changes to gray, the color of the protoplasm in the human body’s cells; and pink colors, symbolic of the virginal human part of his historic origins, point toward the gold circle superimposed on him. His divinity is expressed here in symbols: Within a gold circle, he holds a host and chalice for Holy Communion, through which he miraculously shares his divine body and blood with us in our humanity (cf. John 6:48-58); and his three-rayed nimbus is used in art exclusively for God.

The wonder of the hypostatic union is emphasized by the mountains across the bottom of this window. Throughout Biblical times, mountains were seen as holy places of prayer (cf. Psalm 121, Luke 6:12, Mark 6:46, Matthew 14:23), and the holy city of Jerusalem was built on Mount Zion (2 Samuel 5:6-12). Also, any of the greatest Biblical events and revelations occurred on mountains: The testing of Abraham on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:1-18); the calling of Moses (Exodus 3:1-15) and the giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:16-20:18) on Mount Sinai (also known as Mount Horeb), which later was also the site of Elijah’s vision (1 Kings 19:8-18); the showing of the Promised Land to Moses on Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:1-4); the renewal of the Mosaic covenant by the Chosen People upon their arrival in the Promised Land on Mounts Gerizim and Ebal (Joshua 8:30-35); Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:19-40); the Lord’s Transfiguration on Mount Tabor (Mark 9:2-10); the Lord’s crucifixion on Calvary (Luke 23:33); and the Lord’s Ascension from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9-12). Many other events in the Gospels happened on unspecified mountains, including the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5:1-8:1), the choosing of the Twelve Apostles (Mark 3:13-19), and the two multiplication’s of loaves and fishes (John 6:3-15 and Matthew 15:29-38).

But above this window’s mountains is depicted the greatest revelation of all: “In times past, God spoke in fragmentary and varied ways to our fathers through the prophets; in this, the final age, he has spoken to us through his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2) “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).