Window Reflections: The Ascension

Written By: Dave Rempel

The three large sets of windows behind Ascension’s altar were crafted in Austria in 1924; they resided in Missouri for many years before Ascension obtained them. During the church’s renovation a few years ago, the windows were moved from the top of the front wall to their present location, allowing for our greater appreciation of the scenes and their rendering. Each set of windows includes a verse of Scripture in a bottom panel. What follows is a meditation on one of the three windows. Look for additional reflections in future editions of the bulletin and on the Parish Blog.

The Ascension of Jesus

The Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven.  (Mark 16:19)

The centerpiece artwork of our renovated church depicts our parish’s patron mystery, the Ascension of Jesus to heaven.  As in the resurrection depiction to the left, Jesus is shown with His wounds, but radiant and richly clad, using the three-fingered, Trinitarian benediction so often seen in Christian art (and in some of the side windows).  Mary and the eleven remaining disciples, their saintliness evinced by haloes, are shown in various poses.  Mary and a couple of disciples appear to be praying to Jesus (a confirmation of Jesus’s divinity), while others seem humble or supplicant. One disciple on the left, with arms outstretched, mimics Jesus’s own “orans” position; this gesture by one of Jesus’s original priests, which recalls Jesus’s crucifixion pose (so present in the large crucifix above these windows), is still used today by the celebrant at Mass.  Two disciples on the right appear to be returning Jesus’s blessing, although I like to think that perhaps they are simply waving goodbye to their friend.

In Luke’s account of this mystery in Acts, angels wonder why the disciples continue to stare after Jesus, who will return some day.  It is as if they tell the disciples to stop gawking and get to work.  They did just that, as Luke tells us in his gospel that the disciples continually praised God in the temple after Jesus’s ascension, and Acts proceeds with their work leading the faithful and spreading Jesus’s message.  Indeed, the artist has included two domed edifices in the background of this scene.  They might be palaces, representing the kingdom of heaven to which Jesus is returning; but they may also be churches, representing the true Church made up of the disciples and all subsequent followers of Jesus.

Finally, call me crazy, but the vegetation of the tree above the disciples on the right always looks to me like balloons ready to escape their tether.  Like incense used in our liturgies, those ascending balloons suggest a realm above and beyond ours, reminding us of both the divine object of our worship and our heavenly goal.

The Feast of the Ascension always falls on a Thursday (May 26 for 2022), 40 days after Easter Sunday (see Acts 1:3). However, we observe the Feast of the Ascension on the subsequent Sunday (May 29 for 2022).