Our Stained Glass Windows
Since the 1995 renovation, the stained glass windows of Our Lady of Fatima Church have two central themes: the first is seen in the Sanctuary around the Eucharistic altar and the second is the arrangement of stained glass is a Marian theme, portraying Mary's Journey of Faith.
The crucifix on the rededos in the back of the altar was formerly located at the rear of the church. It now takes its proper place as the central focal point of the Church, especially when the faithful come together to celebrate the Eucharist.
The Marian theme begins with the window that depicts the Magnificat, Mary's great prayer of faith and praise, which she proclaimed upon her Visitation to her cousin, Elizabeth, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, first named Mary Blessed among Women, and told her that her child, the fruiot of her womb, would be Most Blessed. This first window expresses so wonfderfully the joyful YES that Mary kept speaking to God along all the steps of her faith journey.
The next window is entitled "Our Lady of The Barren Tree" (aka The Madonna of the Dry Wood). It enourages us to ask "What does it mean?" It was inspired by a painting created by Petrus Christus, the 15th century Bruges master painted. Mary stands in the groin of a dead or barren tree, encircled by branches that have somehow sprung forth with new life and join together above her. Fiften golden "A"s are randomly suspended by chains from the spiky branches. Mary is dressed in an ample flowing deep red robe, lined in green placed over a blue gown. She holds the Christ Child who is dressed in swaddling clothes while holding a golden orb, on which a cross is mounted. The trunk of the tree has been cut off, the Mother, the Child and the tree stand out like bright jewels coming forth from a sea of darkness.
The image of the Virgin, standing in a dry or barren tree, is derived from Ezekial 17.24: "And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish".
The dry (or barren) tree is the Tree of Knowledge which the Lord caused to wither when Adam and Eve ate from its forbidden fruit. Guillaume deDeguilleville was a 14th Century author who inspired Petrus Christus to paint new branches growing out of a dead tree to represent a grafting on from the Tree of Life. There are different levels of meaning here. One speaks of Mary's special birth. She had been conceived by the thought-to-be-barren St. Anne. Thus her birth brings hope and life, where none was considered to be possible.
Another meaning anticipates God's invitation to Mary to become Mother of the Saviou. Thus, by her stance in the tree, she stands in this picture between death and barrenness below and new life and fruitfulness above. Mary's critical YES to God's invitation was her fundamental act of faith that helped reverse the downward spiral of mankind away from God and toward sin and alienation that had begun with the fateful NO of Adam and the first Eve. Symbolically, Mary's affirmation revived the once dead or dry tree, but it was the birth of her Son, the fruit of her faith and womb, that produced the real fruit on the newly green or fertile tree.
In our glass window, Mary holds the Christ Child, who in turn holds a golden orb, or sphere, crowned by the Cross. This symbolizes Christ's sovereignty over the world He holds, and which He will save by the sacrifice of His own life on the Cross. The resemblance to the Crown of Thorns, one of the principal instruments of Christ's Passion, in the circular form of the limbs above and the spiky branches of the tree, reminds us of how great was the love of Christ for us. It produces new life for this symbolic tree, but especially for us, His Church. Thus this Madonna of the Dry Wood signifies both the Fall of Man and his Redemption.
Upon these brances of the new life hang fifteen golden "A"s. They stand for the first letter of the Ave Maria or Hail Mary. The number fifteen reflects the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. Two things are celebrated here. First, Mary is honored as the new Eve, because Ave was the word spoken to her by the archangel Gabriel, and is the very reverse of Eva, the name of our first mother, whose NO created the need for the Saviour later brought forth by Mary, the new Eve.
The next window presents Mary as the new Eve. Eve herself sits dejectedly in darkness, whereas Mary is shown moving into the light. Her faith lights the way for us so that we, too, can move in the direction of faith.
This window shows the first step of her progression of Mary's faith - after her birth with her parents Anne and Joachim.
This window depicts the presentation of Mary in the Temple.
Two of the most famous events in Mary's Journey of Faith come next in the sequence. This one is the Annunciation to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel that she is to be the Mother of the Saviour.
The Nativity of Jesus which brought forth the Incarnate Son of God into the world.
The next event both tested and deepened Mary's faith - the finding of Jesus teaching in the Temple after she and Joseph had searched for Him in vain.
This next window shows the Holy Family together at home in Nazareth, where Mary along with Joseph helped the child Jesus grow in wisdom, age and grace before God and man.
The next scene in Mary's faith sequence takes us beyond Jesus' public lministry, His Passion, Death and Resurrection - all the way to the feast of Penetost, where Mary's strong faith is also a strength and source of inspiration to the Apostles.
The last two windows show the glorious conclusion of Mary's Journey of Faith. This first one depicts Mary's Assumption into Heaven after her faith-filled service to Jesus and His Church.
This last one shows her continued place in the faith life of the Church. She is crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth, and intercedes with her Son on behalf of her children, Christ's family.
Every journey has a goal, and this one is no different. After reaching the last Marian stained glass window, our eyes continue onward to the Church Sanctuary and the Eucharistic altar. Thus the theme of all true Marian devotion is played out. "Through Mary to Jesus" means that devotion to our Blessed Mother is complete when Mary herself becomes less and less so that Jesus, her Son, can become greater, and indeed the true fulfillment of our own journey of faith.
For our 1995 renovation, the first four windows of this theme (Magnificat, Our Lady of the Barren Tree, Mary the New Eve and the Birth of Mary) were made by Hiemer and Company of Clifton, New Jersey. The windows in the original nave of the Church, starting with the Presentation of Mary, were produced in 1952 by the O'Duggan Studios in Boston. Together with our new windows, the provide a more complete picture of the Journey of Mary's faith.
One of the most beautiful and important stained glass windows is the Holy Spirit/Trinity window directly above the main altar. It imparts two powerful messages. At the center of the window we see the Holy Spirit, represented in the traditional sign of the Dove, and also in the golden tongues of fire, representing swven gifts of the Holy Spirit. This picture reminds us that the Third Person of the Trinity is the Soul of the Church, constantly uniting and nourishing us.
As to the second powerful message in this window, we see both the outstretched Hand of God, symbolic of the Father and also the XP sign of the Son. Thereby the Holy Trinity is fully presented. The Church's great prayer of praise, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit" surrounds this window in gold letters, signifying the continuous prayer of praise that we, a grateful people, offer to God, the source of our life, our faith, and all our blessings. Thus this central window, high above our altar is a very fitting expression of how we, as Church, offer all that we do and are, the totality of our life, prayer and activity as God's Pilgrim People, back to God.
The other major stained glass window is the one that depicts the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It replaces the large Crucifix window which has been transferred to its new central position on the reredos in back of the altar. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is encircled with a Crown of Thorns. The shedding of that Heart's blood on the Cross has won us salvation and the work of Redemption continues until the end of time.
Two other stained glass windows, both new, appear at the main entrance to the Church. Since they welcome us into the Church, they are both traditional symbols of the Church. This one, the Barqaue of Peter, a sailing ship with a red cross calls to mind the Gospel incident where the Apostles became frightened when the wind and waves on the lake threatened to swamp their boat and drown them (Matthew 8:23-27). Jesus told them not to be afraid, but rather to have faith, and then He showed that He was Lord by calming the wind and the waves.
The other symbol is the Fish symbol which was a secret early symbol of being a Christian, when they had to disguise their identity during times of persecution. It has remained a symbol of Church ever since.