A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Ascension in Stained Glass

By Glen McCullough

At the end of Luke's and Mark’s Gospels, they describe how Jesus gave them the great commission to go and tell everyone the Good News, and then he ascended to Heaven. The eleven apostles were there, in Luke’s account, at Bethany.

This window [1] is from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Randwick, Sydney. Although it is very colourful, I find it a bit fanciful, with Jesus on a strange looking cloud. There are only nine apostles, and Mary is present. As she probably stayed with the Apostle John after the Resurrection, and John is probably depicted in the window (4th from left), she was probably there, although she is not specifically mentioned in the Gospels.

I have seen over 40 windows showing the Ascension, and most of them are very large. They have to be, in order to show the eleven apostles and Jesus rising to the sky. Here is just one example [2], from St Stephen’s Church, Ashburton. It is very similar to beautiful windows I have seen in St Andrew’s, New Plymouth; All Souls, Leichardt, Sydney; St Mary’s Cathedral, Perth and St Barnabas, Khandallah. They all have the Holy Spirit as a dove, the eleven Apostles and angels worshipping. Over the page are three very different windows - all of which I have truncated in some way for publication.

The first, from St Matthew’s in the City, Auckland [3] is very stylised and modern. But it is very colourful and I stood taking it all in for quite some time.

The middle [4] is in St Pius X, Tokoroa, and has a uniquely Māori flavour.

The last one, from St Andrew's Wesley, Vancouver BC [5], is my favourite, because it shows the apostles looking upwards to an empty sky with lost expressions on their faces. They didn’t fully understand what had happened until they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. For me, these wonderful windows enhance my understanding and appreciation of the Ascension.

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