Written by Dave Rempel
Sixteen stained glass windows adorn the sides of the worship space at Ascension. Inspiration for the windows was taken from the fact that in Europe long ago, the faithful would learn the Bible from stories depicted in windows. It was intended that Ascension’s windows could be similarly educational. What follows is a meditation on one of the 16 windows. Look for additional reflections in future editions of the Bulletin or on this Parish Blog.
Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God. You shall conceive and bear a son… “Let it be done to me as you say.” (Luke 1:30, 31, 38)
We ordinarily (and correctly) think first of Mary and her fiat in contemplating this mystery, but I want to focus on various symbols included in this particular depiction. The artist has included elements that indicate the presence of God in all three persons of the Trinity: the Father represented by the cloud, as at the Transfiguration; the Holy Spirit represented by the dove, as at the Transfiguration and Jesus’s baptism; and Jesus, being conceived. Luke doesn’t actually mention the appearance of a cloud or a dove, but surely the Father’s voice is heard through the messenger Gabriel, and the Holy Spirit is specifically mentioned in the gospel as the instrument of conception.
Moreover, although Gabriel uses the future tense (“you will conceive…”), the event may be considered as including the very act of conception at the same time – as this artist suggests, with the shining rays of power extending from the Holy Spirit to Mary – and as the Church implicitly recognizes in setting this feast exactly nine months before Christmas.
Gabriel’s hand gesture also suggests the Trinity, as he is shown adopting a sign of blessing or benediction used throughout the history of Christian art, in which the extended fingers and thumb are intended to represent the three persons of God. Finally, I would note the inclusion in the scene of lilies, a common symbol of Mary’s purity often used by artists in renderings of the Annunciation.
The Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated on March 25.