The stained glass window in the Sanctuary
stained glass window behind the altar of St. Theresa’s Church is a thing of
beauty. It is also a treasure trove
of Christianity, history, and ancient legends.
Early mosaics, wall paintings and windows were created at a time when few people
could read. As a result, artists
catered to the masses by bringing faith and truth to them in pictures.
St. Theresa’s window recreates much of the early Christian and Byzantine eras
and even goes back to the time of Noah and Moses.
Near the top is the figure of God the Father holding an orb, or sphere, topped
by a cross. These symbolize power
and the spreading of the Gospel throughout the world.
Just above, on either side of God, are the first and last letters of the Greek
alphabet, Alpha and Omega. These are
reminders of the revelation to
: “ ‘ I am the Alpha and
Omega, the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God, “ Who is and Who was
and Who is coming, the Almighty.”
God is sitting on a rainbow, a reminder of the covenant with man- - -a promise
to Noah after the flood: “Never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed
by the waters of a flood….I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the
covenant between Me and the earth.”
On each side of God is an angel swinging a censer with burning incense.
It is a sign of honor and prayer that goes back to the time of Moses.
In the book of Exodus, the Lord explains to Aaron and Moses how to build
an altar and to make incense and keep it “pure and holy.”
The rising smoke was a reminder of prayers ascending to God in Heaven and
it became a mark if Divine honor.
Below God, the four Evangelists are lined up in a row, a Byzantine innovation.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, writers of the Gospels, are known as
Evangelists from the Greek word meaning “one who announced good tidings.”
Their representation as a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle apparently stems from
the Prophet Ezekiel who wrote 5 centuries before Christ of his vision of
“living creatures” with those characteristics.
had a similar revelation except one of
his creatures was a calf instead of an ox: “And they do not rest day and
night, saying “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God Almighty, Who was, and Who is,
and Who is coming.”
In her book, The Saints Around Us,
Ruth Schell described the Apostles in the window, starting at the left:
Matthew, a winged man because his Gospel deals with the human side of
Christ; Mark, a lion, because he emphasizes the royal and kingly dignity of the
Risen Christ; Luke, an ox, because he emphasizes the sacrificial nature of
Christ’s ministry; John, an eagle, because his gospel stresses the divine
natures of Christ and the eagle rises closer to heaven than any other creature.
Between the figures of the apostles are stars and planets representing the
universe and heaven, and flames representing divine inspiration.
Paintings of the Crucifixion took centuries to develop.
For nearly 300 years under Roman domination Christians remembered
Christ’s sacrifice with pictures of a lamb, a sacrificial animal, and
possibly, a bare cross. It wasn’t
until the sixth century that the figure of Christ was added.
Eight hundred years later the Church allowed the use of patron saints and
founders of religious orders in the paintings regardless of when they lived.
The right side of Christ was always the “good” side.
His followers were always on His right, His enemies on His left.
The custom was extended later to put the major character on the right and
the lesser on the left, as in our painting: the Virgin Mary on Christ’s right
and Saint John the Evangelist on the left and on the outside St. Theresa of
of the Cross.
Above Christ in the window, in Latin, is the title ordered by Pontius Pilate:
:Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
Over that is the dove of the Holy Spirit, a name derived from the words of John
the Baptist when he baptized Jesus: “ I saw the Spirit coming down from heaven
like a dove and resting upon Him.”
The dove had been a symbol of good tidings and peace since the time of Noah, who
used doves to see if it was safe to leave the ark after the flood.
The dove was considered holy by the Jews whose laws forbade eating them.
Doves were used as sacrifices as in the case of Mary and Joseph who
brought two doves for the Presentation of Jesus in the
the dove and above Christ’s arms are angels holding representations of the sun
and moon. Their use goes back
centuries to when they were signs of Apollo, the Sun God, and Diana, the Moon
viewed their use as symbols of the two
testaments: the Old (the moon) could only be understood by the light shed on it
by the New (the Sun).
The sun and moon also could refer to a description of Mary in early liturgies:
“Beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun.”
Below Christ is a picture of a pelican , which, according to legend, has pierced
its own breast to feed its young. It
is , of course, a reference to Christ Who gave His Body and Blood to feed us in
the Eucharist. (The pelican is hidden from the front by the canopy of the altar
wall , but can be seen at an angle.)
Mary and the Apostle John are next to Jesus and the Gospel says: “When Jesus
therefore saw His Mother and the Disciple standing by whom He loved, He said to
His Mother, ‘Woman, behold your Son.’ Then He turned to the Disciple and
said ‘Behold your other.’ And
from that hour, the Disciple took her into his home.”
Mary in the painting has fleur de lis around her and Madonna Lilies at her feet,
both signs of purity. John, author
of the fourth Gospel, holds a quill and book.
Below him are a chalice and a serpent because his enemies tried to give
him a poisoned drink. God saved him.
Beside Mary and John are St. Theresa of
, the patroness of our church, and her co-worker,
of the Cross.
St. Theresa holds a golden arrow with which her heart was pierced during a
divine vision, which left her with a burning love of God.
A pierced heart is below her.
On the opposite side is St. Theresa’s helper in forming the Discalced Order of
of the Cross suffered persecution and
imprisonment for his beliefs but never wavered in his devotion.
Below him are lilies and the Cross he loved.
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