An Overview of the Meaning of the Beatitude Windows
"Seek ye first God's kingdom."
Jesus said these words in his famous Sermon on the Mount. Yet, it is the Risen Christ who looks upon us in this window. The Risen Christ is known to women and men throughout history. The two globes at his sandaled feet remind us that he came to proclaim the love of God to all nations.
Christ's face in this window is strong and serious, yet his eyes are filled with kindness. His hands beckon to us. In his deeply lined face, not dimmed of eye or broken in spirit, there is confidence and faith.
This painting is over 30 feet in height and its infinite detail in the fabric of the cloth, the balance of shadow and light contribute to the symmetry in this magnificent figure of Christ.
The First Beatitude
This window portrays the Pharisee and the Tax Collector who went into the temple to pray (Luke 18:10-14). On the first sight, the Pharisee dominates the scene with his beautifully tailored garments. He is a person of prestige. He boldly looks heavenward and his powerful hands say, "See what I have done with my hands."
On closer examination, in the forefront, we see the tax collector in a position of vulnerability on his knees praying, "Lord, have mercy on me a sinner." Those who claim the limelight for themselves are often seen first. However, it is those aware of their spiritual need who represent the more eternal values.
The Second Beatitude
The figure of Christ is caught in this mesh of three cogs and wheels that symbolize our technological age. Our civilization places the highest value on profits, production and possessions. Christ enters this impersonal society, identifying with those who suffer and who cannot extricate themselves from the system.
In this window, Christ seems to have folded his hands and closed his eyes as he identifies with the entrapments of our age. In the midst of the surrounding wheels, there is a cross in the background, and Christ's willingness to stand in the midst of life with those who mourn and suffer.
The Third Beatitude
In this creation window, the hand of God is in the center, creating heaven and earth in a cataclysmic explosion, surrounded by the elements of creation: earth, wind, water and fire.
A pine tree, symbol of life, is firmly rooted in the rocky mountainside nourished by air, sun, and rain.
The unseen power of life and growth is symbolized by the open hand of God and the flame of God's Spirit. As we grow in awareness of our dependence upon God's creative love, we grow in humility. Truly the humble inherit God's earth and care for it in respect for what God created.
The Fourth Beatitude
The story of Job in Hebrew scripture stands out as one who would not give up his search for God. He is afflicted by disease and his body is marked by scars. His ribs are showing. Members of his family have been taken captive and fire destroyed his property. Marauders have carried away his flocks and servants. The skull at Job's feet represents the mood of misery, defeat, despair and death.
His friends give him little comfort as they express the traditional thinking that the sinful suffer and the righteous are rewarded. Job cannot accept this. He is convinced that the innocent and righteous also suffer. Nor can Job accept the idea of an unjust or unloving God.
In this window, Job is a sympathetic figure as he steadfastly holds to his personal integrity. He raises his hand in confidence and plants his rod in the ground, saying, "Though he slays me still I will trust him... For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth...and I shall see God." (Job 13:15; 19:25-26)
The Fifth Beatitude
The Good Samaritan shows mercy for the man broken, bruised and neglected by the roadside. The man represents the sick, the hungry and the marginalized of the world.
This window depicts the injured man after his wounds have been treated and bandaged. The Good Samaritan cradles this man into his arms to reassure and comfort him. The face, the hands, and the compassionate posture of the Good Samaritan convey the mood of deep concern.
The jar at the base of the window reminds us when Jesus said, "I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was sick and you took care of me." (Matthew 25:35) The halo over the Good Samaritan suggests that those who are merciful express true Christ-likeness.
The Sixth Beatitude
This window portrays Jesus at the beginning of his ministry when he was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). The devil is dramatized as a crafty and repulsive figure, with distorted head, piercing eyes, misshapen body, boney fingers and arms and serpentine tail. He presses his body against Jesus as he urges Jesus to accept his enticements.
The first temptation is to turn the stones at his feet into bread. Jesus answers, "One does not live by bread alone."
The second temptation occurs as the devil takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, seen in this distance in this window. The devil urges Jesus, "If you are the son of God, throw yourself down and show that no harm will come to you." Jesus answers, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."
In the final temptation Jesus is taken to a high mountain and shown all the kingdoms of the world. In the window, the devil holds the golden crown of earthly power for Jesus to see: "All these I give you if you will worship me." Jesus responds, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.'"
The confidence in Jesus' hands shows his ultimate victory over the devil.
The Seventh Beatitude
Saul, a man of violence, was transformed into Paul the reconciler. On the road to Damascus on a mission to persecute followers of Jesus, a sudden light flashed above Paul (Acts 9:1-20).
With this revelation and his conversion, Paul devoted his life to proclaim the Gospel of Peace. In his window, the explosion of light brings with it a vision seen earlier by the prophet Isaiah, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not life up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4)
The hands of Paul make clear that peace has come into his world. Peacemakers will be called the children of God.
The Eighth Beatitude
Jesus is nailed to the cross. We hear his words, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)
This window emphasizes the humanity of Jesus as a robust, vigorous person with a strong physique. His head is erect and he expresses resistance. It is the hand of God that upholds and strengthens him.
He is not without strength as he announces, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:46) The power of God is with him and there is no power on earth that can defeat him.