The Old Testament Windows
All that We Have: The Stained Glass Windows in the Daily Mass Chapel, Part 2
Published on March 2-3, 2013 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
At the top of the Old Testament windows is a stylized capital ‘A.’ It stands for the first letter of the Greek alphabet, the άλφα. It is paired with the capital ‘Ω’ at the top of the New Testament windows which stands for the ωμέγα, the last letter of the same alphabet. These letters refer to the Lord God who is “the Alpha and the Omega…the One who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty,” (Rev. 1:8) “the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13).
The alpha also reminds the beholder that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1). It was He who “in the beginning…created the heavens and the earth” (Gn. 1:1). Right below that alpha, the Lord’s right hand can be seen; it is extended in blessing to create the cosmos: the sun and the moon (the purple crescent moon is found on top of the New Testament windows), the stars and the planets (the ringed Saturn is specially singled out).
Some of the stars spill over to the second section below. They signify the Lord’s covenant with the patriarch Abraham: the promise that his descendants would be as countless as the stars in the sky (cf. Gn. 15:5). The knife and the pot of coals recall the Lord’s dreadful demand to Abraham to offer up his only son Isaac as a burnt sacrifice (cf. Gn. 22:1-10). Abraham had hoped that “God will provide the sheep for the burnt offering” (Gn. 22:8) and God did not disappoint: a single ram can be seen in this window with its horns caught in the thicket and it was this ram provided by the Lord that the patriarch offered in place of his son (cf. Gn. 22:14).
The image of the burning bush dominates the third section of these windows. It evokes Moses’ encounter with God on the mountain of Horeb and the mission that he had received to bring the Israelites out of Egypt (cf. Ex. 3:1-15). Above it are the two stone tablets of the Lord’s covenant given from Sinai’s height (cf. Ex. 32:15-16). The exodus from Egypt is depicted near the top of the panel: the Red Sea is parted for the people, “with the water as a wall to their right and to their left” (Ex. 14:22), and they crossed on dry land in the midst of the sea.
Finally, symbols for the priests and the prophets of the Old Testament are portrayed on the bottom panel. The blooming staff recalls the rod of Aaron the Priest and Levite: from all the staffs of the twelve tribes his alone “put forth sprouts, produced blossoms, and borne ripe almonds” (Nm. 17:23). The scroll and the quill in front of the large orb signify how Divine Revelation has been proclaimed to the world through the Sacred Scriptures. The tongs with the coal brings to mind the call of Isaiah the prophet. Upon seeing a vision of the Lord, he had cried out, “I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips” (Is. 6:5). Thus, a seraphim took an ember from the altar and touched the prophet’s lips with it to remove from him his wickedness, to purge him of his sins (cf. Is. 6:6-7). Then, the voice of the Lord was heard saying, “Whom shall I send?” (Is. 6:8)
For the believer who looks at these windows, a singular response to that question echoes throughout the Old Testament. It is the response of Abraham when he was commanded to sacrifice his son, of Moses when he was called to deliver Israel from slavery, of Isaiah when he was sent to preach the message of the Lord. It is the response that these windows invite every beholder to give to God anew: “Here I am” (Gn. 22:1; Ex. 3:4; Is. 6:8).