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Window of the Month
Our Lady of Grace, Dearborn Heights, Michigan

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Building Name: First Presbyterian Church

Artist Name: Michael and Frances Higgins

City: Dearborn

Window Shape: 2 (rectangle)

Date of Window: 1965

Subject/Title of Window: Sampler of Christian Symbols, left

Brief Description of Subject: From “A Sampler of Christian Symbols, Two Windows in the First Presbyterian Church of Dearborn, Michigan”

When in 1960, the congregation first began to give serious thought to the design and construction of this building, it determined to erect a creative and honest expression that all who pass by might see “a testament to its faith and a witness to its heritage.” The magnificent Chapel windows, which are dedicated to the glory of God and the memory of His faithful servants, are consistent with that avowed purpose and harmonious with the entire structure.

These windows for a “sampler” of Christian symbols, embracing the total spectrum of Christian faith. Many, though very ancient in origin, are seldom seen and all are presented in new and unusual art forms. They convey a timeless message to young and old alike, reaffirming our foundations in an age when roots have withered and man’s spirit is adrift. Through the years ahead they will help us to teach eternal truth to our children, as we recall and reaffirm it in ourselves. They are sermons in glass presenting the wisdom of the centuries in contemporary beauty, shedding light on our darkened path and hope for dreary days.

The theology in this sampler draws from both the Old and New Testaments. The artists have worked with some of the best scholars of our time to select and define the concepts they depict. While they have sought to use the unusual and to avoid the cliches, they have maintained a true sense of what a significant to our faith.

As a worshiping people, we feel a sincere and deep gratitude to a number of people who have made this glorious addition to our House of Prayer:
To Hans and Margaret Nelson whose lives were so sensitive to creative beauty that this memorial is altogether fitting. Especially to Margaret, who seeking a meaningful memorial to her beloved husband, sought out the artists, worked with them with enthusiasm, committed herself to their completion, and whose loving spirit lives within them.
To Michael and Frances Higgins who dedicated talent, intellect, time and abundant faith to the creation of wonder and beauty: whose wisdom and gentle humor was always consistent with the spirit of a glorious offering to our gracious God.
To Allan and Richard Nelson and their families who have sacrificially continued to completion the memorial to their parents in the same sacramental spirit in which it was begun.
To Mr. M. William Davis who designed and fashioned the frames for the individual plates which comprise the windows.

Column 1, pane 1: As the inscription indicates, the depiction in the first panel of Saint George killing the dragon was enlarged from a small enamel on silver by Hans Nelson. No need for us to labor the allegory of Saintly Heroism conquering Evil to rescue Virtue (normally a maiden, not shown in this picture). Artist Nelson gave St. George of Cappadocia a Middle-Eastern type of cap, and the whole style of his picture is similar to that of the saints in textile representations from that area.
Pane 2a: A is also the Greek Letter Alpha, which, together with Omega, the last letter in the Greek alpabet, symbolizes the total scope of the power of Christ. The Latin monogram set into the alpha is the be read “amate me”: love ye me.
Pane 2b: The Apple is the fruit of the Garden of Eden, is held to be the sign of the burden of mankind’s sin assumed by Christ.
Pane 3: The Anchor is the holdfast of man’s hope in Christ, and is found among the glyphs in the early Christian catacombs. The form of a cross seen in its shank traversing its stock (disregarding the flukes below) reinforcing this usage.
The Ark rode out the Deluge as the Church of Christ rides out all earthly catastrophes.
The Chain is also a symbol in two different ways: as indicating the close union of a Christian community all linked together; but also (by itself, not as an anchor-chain) as the instrument of bondage during Christ’s passage.
Pane 4: The Ass stood by the manger at Christ’s birth; and carried Mary with her Child on the flight into Egypt. It is an example for all humble souls whose simple tasks are essential to the welfare of the Church.
Column 2, pane 1: The Bee is the exemplar of diligence in orderly work; and so the Beehive of a community dedicated to diligence and order. (The hive shown here is the old-fashioned skep, made of plaited straw.) Honey and the honeycomb, for their sweetness, are used as patterns of Christ’s mercy.
Pane 2: The Bible with its two Testaments: The Old represented by the seven-branched candelabrum; the New by the quadrate sign of the Four Gospels.
Pane 3: The Bulrush (Cattail) is a plant of the water’s edge; hence a symbol of the quiet people who live by the clear waters of the Gospel.
Pane 4: The Butterfly, in its life-cycle through the egg, the larva, the pupa and the adult glory, mirrors the stages of growth of the Christian soul: birth, life, death and Resurrection.
Pane 5: The Chalice is both the draught of agony accepted by Christ at Gethsemane, and the cup of the Eucharist. Also, in earlier days, the Holy Grail which was the object of knightly adventure.
The Chrisma is the traditional monogram of Christ. The word Chrisma, meaning anointment as Christ means The Anointed One, is not to be confused with Charisma, used in early writings to characterize Divine Grace (but now vulgarized to mean advanced in public esteem by a false image on television).
Column 3, pane 1: The Cherry, declaring sweetness, has frequently been shown in the hand of the Christ Child, promising the sweet joys of Heaven.
The Chestnut (the species with a prickly shell) symbolizes chastity protected by the armor of virtue; also, the gleaming kernel of goodness which often hides behind a discouraging exterior.
Pane 2: Two Crowns are shown in this panel: the crown of royalty, perhaps a little battered and tarnished, claiming dominion over the temporal world; and behind it the Crown of Thorns, crying of Christ’s Passion and crucifixion. The conjunction may also suggest the fact that behind many positions of worldly power may lied something of torment.
Pane 3: The Dove, returning to the Ark with its olive twig, is the herald of peace between God and man, and also the symbol of the Holy Ghost.
Pane 4: The Eagle has many mythical attributes (and some real), which made it a symbol of Resurrection (as well as of our Republic).
Here we have given it an additional role as the Phoenix, which, believed to renew itself from its own ashes, also naturally represents Rising Again. The Seven Flames are traditionally used to signify the fervor of burning faith.
Pane 5: The Egg bespeaks the promise of a future life. The Ermine, with its white coat, stands for purity, an attribute somewhat boldly claimed in its use on the robes of earthly kings in the past, and now of others.
Column 4, pane 1:  This sequence of symbols form medieval usage depicts the Life of the Family, watched over by Christ. The six characters represent man, woman, their union; the woman with child, the child’s birth, and lastly the united family.
Pane 2: The Fish is among the oldest of Christian symbols, signifying that, as a fish cannot live out of water, so a soul cannot live without Christian baptism. But its power also derives from the fact that the Greek word for fish - ichthus - carries the initial letters of Iesous Christos Theou (h) Uios Soter: Jesus Christ, son of God, the Savior. (Ch in Greek is a single letter - as also used in the Chrisma in an earlier panel). The other Greek word on this panel - ischus - means Strength of Power. The use of the Fish as a symbol may also relate to the fishermen Disciples; and we show a fragment of net as a reminder of those “fishers of men.”
Pane 3: The Fleur-de-lis, symbol of French kings and of Boy Scouts, was also a sign of the Trinity, as are the Trefoil (the shamrock of St. Patrick) and the Triquetra, a natural geometric form. (This panel, and a corresponding one in the other window, were left partially clear so that one may observe whether any ceremony is in progress in the chapel before entering).
Pane 4: The Gateway here signalizes the passage from life to Eternal Life. To it leads the Path of righteous. In past times the Sun was often taken as symbolic of Christ, as the Moon of his Mother. And the panel also implies the change from light to darkness over the earth at the time of Calvary. Another thought embodied here may be “A mighty fortress is our God.”
Pane 5: The Grasshopper (well, the locust) helped deliver the Israelites from Pharoah’s bondage by creating the Plague of Famine, and so became a paradigm for Christ’s delivery of man from the bondage of sin.

Inscriptions: This depiction of St. George was created by Hans Nelson, artist and teacher in whose memory, with that of his wife Margaret, these windows are dedicated.

Height: 4'

Width: 4'

Sampler of Christian Symbols, left
Sampler of Christian Symbols, left

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