Stained and Art Glass Windows
One of the most prominent and beautiful features of Immaculate Conception Church is the stained and art glass windows in the sanctuary, “transept area” and nave of the church.
The subject of the windows along the nave are of the Mysteries of the Rosary; Joyful Mysteries on the left and Glorious Mysteries on the right. The depictions and vibrancy of color are truly spectacular. As you reflect on the rosary windows, you will notice the color scheme. You see vibrant purples, reds, greens and blues. These colors were incorporated into the color palate for the walls, ceilings, trimming and carpet when the church was renovated in 2000.
The rosary probably began as a practice by the laity to imitate the monastic Divine Office (Breviary or Liturgy of the Hours), during the course of which the monks daily prayed the 150 Psalms. The laity, many of whom could not read, substituted 50, or even 150, Ave Marias (Hail Marys) for the Psalms. This prayer, at least the first half of it so directly biblically, seems to date from as early as the 2nd century, as ancient graffiti at Christian sites has suggested. Sometimes a cord with knots on it was used to keep an accurate count of the Aves.
The first clear historical reference to the rosary, however, is from the life of St. Dominic (died in 1221), the founder of the Order of Preachers or Dominicans. He preached a form of the rosary in France at the time that the Albigensian heresy was devastating the Faith there. Tradition has it that the Blessed Mother herself asked for the practice as an antidote for heresy and sin.
One of Dominic's future disciples, Alain de Roche, began to establish Rosary Confraternities to promote the praying of the rosary. The form of the rosary we have today is believed to date from his time. Over the centuries the saints and popes have highly recommended the rosary, the greatest prayer in the Church after the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours. Not surprisingly, it's most active promoters have been Dominicans.
Rosary means a crown of roses, a spiritual bouquet given to the Blessed Mother. It is sometimes called the Dominican Rosary, to distinguish it from other rosary-like prayers (e.g. the Franciscan Rosary of the Seven Joys or Franciscan Crown, the Servite Rosary of the Seven Sorrows). It is also, in a general sense, a form of chaplet or corona (crown), of which there are many varieties in the Church. Finally, in English it has been called "Our Lady's Psalter" or "the beads." This last derives from an Old English word for prayers (bede) and to request (biddan or bid).
The rosary has been called the preparation for contemplation and the prayer of saints. While the hands and lips are occupied with the prayers (it can and should be prayed silently when necessary so as not to disturb others), the mind meditates on the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption represented by the decades. Meditation is the form of prayer by which the one who prays uses the mind and imagination to consider a truth and uses the will to love it and form resolutions to live it. In this way the heart, mind, and soul of the Christian is formed according to the Gospel examples of the Savior and His First Disciple, His Mother. In God's own time, when this purification of the heart, mind, and soul has advanced sufficiently the Lord may give the grace of contemplative prayer, that special divine insight into the truth which human effort cannot achieve on its own.
Good Shepherd Window
The two major stained glass windows in the transept area of the church, are of the Good Shepherd and the Blessed Mother.
The Good Shepherd window shows Jesus caring for his sheep and reminds us that He is always with us, putting our spiritual lives and our protection before his own life.
The life of a shepherd was very difficult. A flock of sheep never grazed without his presence and therefore, the shepherd was on duty every day of the week. Since the sheep always had to travel in order to find grass to eat, they were never left alone. Sheep could get lost, or they could be attacked by wolves or stolen by robbers.
Sheep were seldom used for regular food by the people of the Holy Land; rather sheep were cultivated for the use of their wool. Thus, the shepherd was with his sheep for a very long time. He gave each one of them a name, and they all knew his voice. In fact, it is said that each shepherd had a peculiar way of speaking to the sheep that allowed them to know that he was their shepherd.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27
During the warm weather, it was common for the sheep to spend the night away from the village farm. The shepherd watched over them throughout the night. In these circumstances, the sheep stayed in open areas surrounded by a low rock wall. In these areas, the sheep entered and left through an open space which had no door or gate of any kind. During the night, the shepherd would sleep stretched out within the empty space so that no sheep could get out except by crossing over his body. At the same time, a wolf or a robber could not get in, expect by crossing over his body as well. Here we can see a prime example of how the shepherd would give his life for his sheep.
Blessed Mother Window
The Blessed Mother Window shows an image of Mary that is the image of Mary from the Book of Revelation. “A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” Revelation 12:1 Mary appears to be standing in a heavenly realm. The moon is depicted under her feet as described above. She is clothed in the Sun which is depicted by the aura surrounding her. She has stars about her head although only seven of them are visible, one has to imagine the other five. What is the spiritual significance of this woman from Revelation? What does she mean to Catholics? There is a long-standing tradition of interpretation in the Church which views this woman from two perspectives: as representative of God’s People and as the Mother of our Lord. We note that it is common to find a feminine image for the People of God, in the OT and the NT. In this case, we see that the Savior (male child) is born of the Jewish People with the pains of birth (symbolically often used to represent a new age dawning, certainly the case with the coming of the Messiah) and Satan attempts to destroy our Lord, not just as an infant but he continually attempted to thwart his saving mission. But having failed to do this and now that our Lord has ascended to heaven, Satan continues to wage war upon the Church (the Woman). She is given protection by our Lord, as the Church is protected, through a period of persecution. The reference to a period of three and a half years, in various fractions, seems to represent a period of persecution, no matter how long it may be, in fact. This three and a half period may find a past reference in the persecution of Antiochus IV of Syria upon the Jewish people in the 2nd century BC and may find an initial fulfillment in the siege of Jerusalem from 66-70 AD, more specifically, for precisely a three and a half year period. At the primary level of symbolism, we can see this woman as representative of our Blessed Mother, who gave birth to our Lord. But in making this association, we do not apply every aspect or detail to her directly without qualification. For the suffering need not be a matter of physically giving birth, but of the sufferings the Mother of our Lord endured which reach a height as she stood beneath the cross upon which her Son died. Remember, the prophet Simeon had foretold that a sword of sorrow would pierce her heart. This allusion was not a matter of a physical sword but of spiritual and emotional suffering of a Mother, which is also physical. But many non- Catholics will not accept deeper levels of symbols, which is often at the spiritual level of interpretation and in light of Tradition and sometimes special revelations, such as Marian apparitions, some of which have been officially approved. The apparent connection between the appearance of the ark of the covenant in chapter eleven and the appearance of this woman in chapter twelve further confirm the association of the Woman with Mary, for she is regarded by the Church as the new Ark of the Covenant, as the first dwelling place of the Incarnate Lord.
We should also note that the Church has chosen the text of the Woman Clothed with the Sun as the first reading for the vigil Mass of the feast of the Assumption. The implication is obvious: this text is to be associated with the Blessed Mother, now in her heavenly splendor.
Finally, we have the words of two popes who comment upon this Woman as an image of the Blessed Mother.
In his encyclical letter “Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum” Pope Pius X wrote:
“A great sign,” thus the Apostle St. John describes a vision divinely sent him, appears in the heavens: “A woman clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars upon her head.” Everyone knows that this woman signified the Virgin Mary, the stainless one who brought forth our head…John therefore saw the Most Holy Mother of God already in eternal happiness, yet travailing in a mysterious childbirth. What birth was it? Surely it was the birth of us who, still in exile, are yet to be generated to the perfect charity of God, and to eternal happiness. And the birth pains show the love and desire with which the Virgin from heaven above watches over us, and strives with unwearying prayer to bring about the fulfillment of the number of the elect.
In his encyclical letter, "The Great Sign," Pope Paul VI wrote:
The great sign which the Apostle John saw in heaven, "a woman clothed with the sun,"(1) is interpreted by the sacred Liturgy,(2) not without foundation, as referring to the most blessed Mary, the mother of all men by the grace of Christ the Redeemer.
In his encyclical letter “Redemptoris Mater” Pope John Paul II wrote:
47. Thanks to this special bond linking the Mother of Christ with the Church, there is further clarified the mystery of that "woman" who, from the first chapters of the Book of Genesis until the Book of Revelation, accompanies the revelation of God's salvific plan for humanity. For Mary, present in the Church as the Mother of the Redeemer, takes part, as a mother, in that monumental struggle; against the powers of darkness"(138) which continues throughout human history. And by her ecclesial identification as the "woman clothed with the sun" (Rev. 12:1),(139) it can be said that "in the Most Holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle." Hence, as Christians raise their eyes with faith to Mary in the course of their earthly pilgrimage, they "strive to increase in holiness."(140) Mary, the exalted Daughter of Sion, helps all her children, wherever they may be and whatever their condition, to find in Christ the path to the Father's house.
Half Moon Windows
The two small half-moon windows over the doors to the annex hall and over the votive candles depict the Suffering Jesus on the right side and the Sorrowful Mother on the left side. These windows were placed over the areas that originally held the confessionals. The confessional is now located in the Adoration Chapel. Confession is a sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ in his love and mercy. It is here that we meet the loving Jesus who offers sinners forgiveness for offenses committed against God and neighbor. At the same time, Confession permits sinners to reconcile with the Church, which also is wounded by our sins. The sacrament, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, is known by many names. Sometimes "it is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus' call to conversion" (1423). But it is also better known as "the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction" (1423). For many of us it still continues to be known as "the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament" (1424). At the same time, the Catechism reminds us that "it is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent 'pardon and peace'" (1424). Finally, it is also called the sacrament of Reconciliation because it reconciles sinners to God and then to each other (1424). Through this sacrament, we meet Christ in his Church ready and eager to absolve and restore us to new life. The graces of Christ are conferred in the sacraments by means of visible signs - signs that are acts of worship, symbols of the grace given and recognizable gestures through which the Lord bestows his gifts. In the sacrament of Penance, the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of grace are the gifts received through the outward sign, i.e., the extension of hands and words of absolution pronounced by the priest.
The round windows in the sanctuary wall show depictions of angels holding plaques containing images of the implements or symbols of the passion. The most noticeable is the center window as it can be seen from every position in the church. This window shows the crown of thorns and in the center, a pair of dice depicting the casting of lots over the garments of Jesus. The window to the immediate left of center shows an angel with a plaque depicting a hammer and pliers or pincers.
These are the tools that drove the nails into our Lord’s wrists and feet and then also removed them.
Continuing on to the left we see the window with the plaque depicting the whips that were used to scourge Jesus.
To the immediate right of center we see the angel holding the plaque with the spike-like nails of the crucifixion.
And proceeding around to the far right, we see the angel holding the plaque with the spear, sponge and Ladder.
Is it not abundantly appropriate that standing watch over this sanctuary, where on a daily basis we have the ritual of the Mass continuing the paschal sacrifice of our Lord, we have the tools and symbols of that sacrifice?
Choir Loft Windows
The choir loft windows repeat the arch design although there are no columns present in the windows themselves. They repeat the diamond patterns within the windows and the coloring is similar but there are also many variations between these windows and those in the rest of the church. These windows are really quite lovely and unique and often times overlooked when viewing the church. They are a series of smaller arched windows within the larger masonry arches with the center ones topped by a stylized rose window. These windows are framed by lovely wooden panels of perhaps mahogany although the actual type of wood used in the frame is unavailable. At the top of the smaller arched side windows is a round window with a stained glass rosette. None of the other windows in the church have this element although rosettes are featured in multiple places in the church. See that section below. In the center of the larger middle arched window is a type of “rose” window but uniquely set in the same wooden frame of the other choir loft windows. Rose windows are featured in many churches in the past decades as well as for centuries in the larger Cathedrals of Europe. Even though Immaculate Conception’s rose window is very simplistic when compared to those truly exceptional and beautiful windows in Notre Dame and Chartres, it is comforting to know that we share in this artistic element.