Sunday, July 6, 2008

From the ridiculous to the sublime

We now leave the strange and entertaining world of fruits and vegetables to turn to something a little different: the beauty of stained glass windows.

Blogger extraordinaire Jeannelle, a farmer's wife in Iowa, has been taking photographs of the stained glass windows in the church she and her husband attend and showing them on her blog on Sundays. The church, built in 1873, is part of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS) denomination. I’ve put her four most recent windows together into this single post today.

Do you notice anything unusual about these four windows? Look closely. Each window honors one of the Four Evangelists, the writers of the first four books of the New Testament, the Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John, respectively. So far, nothing unusual. But you may be surprised to see that each of the four central figures is shown with wings. You may be even more surprised to realize that the images are a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. Your reaction might be similar to mine: Why in the world are these figures used to represent Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?

I“m glad you asked. You will need to read the first chapter of the book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament, and you also will need to read the fourth chapter of the book of Revelation in the New Testament. I won’t quote these passages here; you’ll have to go read them for yourself. Then you will know the source of the four images and that they are angelic creatures, spiritual beings, heavenly in origin. So why did the early Church fathers associate these symbols to the Four Evangelists? I don't know; you’ll have to ask them yourself when you see them in Heaven, or go surf the Internet if you can’t wait that long.

When you get to Heaven--if you get to Heaven--you may also want to do two other things: ask God why He created these funny bodies of ours in just the way He did, and notify Adam and Eve that they have a lot of explaining to do. You’ll have all eternity to understand their answers, and all eternity to ask lots more questions. Or you may want to spend all eternity joining in praise and worship of Almighty God. The angels have been doing just that for a long time already. And so have, I think, the creators of the stained glass windows and the builders of the Lutheran church in Iowa.

In the meantime, go to to read more of Jeannelle’s fascinating blog.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, these windows look great all together on one blogpost!! Good idea!

    Personally, I'd like to do more study on who first attached these biblical winged creatures to the four Gospel writers/Evangelists.

    Symbolism was stressed more in ancient times, I think, than it is now. Its a fascinating subject.

    Thanks for your kind words!