The Passion Window

When the sanctuary was first completed, there was only one stained glass window, the chancel window directly behind me.  The chancel window was dedicated when the sanctuary first opened in 1924.  Designed by the D’Ascenzo Studios, it was given in memory of Elizabeth McGahan Rodenbough by Elmar W. Rodenbough.  As was mentioned on earlier Sundays, the window was carefully moved and reassembled at its present location when the front of the sanctuary was extended in 1959.

The chancel window is known as the Passion window, for it depicts the events surrounding the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  So it is fitting that in the present season of Lent we consider the visual story that our oldest sanctuary window is trying to tell us.

The lower portion of the window consists of three vertical panels separated by carved limestone. On each panel there are three sections, or “medallions.”  To follow the story of the window, you “read” the window panels from left to right, reading each panel from top to bottom before proceeding to the next panel.

The first panel — the one to the far left — shows the events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion.  At the top Christ is first portrayed carrying the cross on his left shoulder. Next, Christ is seen kneeling in the garden of Gethsemane looking up at a Chalice. This recalls his prayer to the Father that “this cup” — the crucifixion — pass from him. The lower scene is that of Christ wearing a purple robe with a crown of thorns placed upon his head. 

The second panel — the one in the middle — shows the actual crucifixion scene.   Again beginning at the top, in the background is the city of Jerusalem, and in the foreground is a skull, signifying Golgotha, the “place of the skull,” where Jesus died.   The next scene shows the angel at the tomb, and the final scene a Roman soldier looking up at the now-empty cross, recalling the centurion who upon Jesus’ death was moved to say, “Truly this man was the son of God.”

The third panel — the one on the right — depicts the resurrection of Christ.  Christ is seen stepping out of the tomb, his hands raised in triumph. Next Christ appears at Galilee, with the sail of the boat contrasting with the vivid blue of the lake.  Finally, Christ is shown, again with his hands raised, ascending into heaven. The final recalls the account in the 24th Chapter of Luke, which states: “And [Jesus] led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass while he blessed them, he was parted from them and carried up into heaven.”

The deep, opaque colors used in this stained glass window make it one of the darkest windows in our sanctuary.  Unfortunately, as the window faces west, it never receives direct sunlight during our morning worship services, so it is often difficult to see.  It is only in the setting sun that the beauty of the design can be truly appreciated.  So after building a Sunrise Window in the front of its chapel, our church, in essence, built a Sunset Window in the front of its sanctuary. 

If you are ever in the church during sunset, particularly in the Spring, come by the sanctuary and observe for yourself, in full illumination, the beauty of the message the Passion window intends to convey.