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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, right

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.
The Meanings of the Pictured Symbols The Right Hand Window
Column 1, pane 1: The Harbor of the Faith received the battered, wandering barques of men’s souls into “the heaven where they would be.”  The entering Ship carries a mast and yards which together form a Cross. The Latin word for a ship - navis - came to be the name for the main body of a traditional church - the ship of souls. The Rocks at the mouth of this port must, we hope, be those on which the Beacon of the Church is firmly built - not the rocks on which a homebound soul may founder!
Pane 2: The Hare, ever watchful to run from the pounce of its pursuer, is an allegory for the immortal soul, which must be ever vigilant to escape from evil.
Pane 3: Ivy, always green denotes Eternal Life, and clings to a wall as man clings to his faith for support. The Eye, set in the triangle of the Trinity, represents the All-Seeing God. This same Eye watched over the birth of our Republic. The symbol of God’s watchful presence is engraved on our money as a pyramid with an all-seeing eye at the top. That symbol was designed by a Presbyterian elder, Elias Budeneau.
Pane 4: “Behold, the Lamb of God,” cried John the Baptist, as recorded by the other John, the Evangelist. Our Lamb stands on a hillock, which is the Church, from which stream the Four Gospels.
Pane 5: The Lantern enlightens its surroundings as the word of God illuminates the soul of man - “a light to lighten the Gentiles.”
The Lily, as an emblem of purity, frequently appears in paintings of the Annunciation, and is now Paschal, associated with Easter.
Column 2, pane 1: The Palm frond, as a traditional pennant of victory, was waved at Christ’s entry into Jerusalem; and has been carried on Palm Sunday through the centuries in memory. The Pomegranate, with its many seeds all in one fruit, bears the image of the all-embracing Faith, and the promise of fertile growth within it.
Pane 3: The Passion Flower is a whole galaxy of analogues: its discovery in Mexico around 1600 amazed the symbol-seeking clerics. The ten sepals and petals were conceived to represent 10 of the 12 Apostles (excluding Peter as church-founder and Judas as traitor). The spiky corona reminded them of the crown of thorns; the five anthers of the five wounds, and the three styles of the three nails.
Pane 4: The Pelican came to represent loving charity, and even the final sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, because of a legend that it was wont to pierce its own breast with its beak, to feed its young on its blood. Alas! This fallacy may simply have arisen from observation of the bird feeding its young with fragments of fish, which must often be bloody, from its capacious beak-bay.
Pane 5: The Robe put upon Christ for a mockery grievously recalls the time of his persecution and is often shown with the Dice cast for it by his guards. The Scourge is also a symbol of the Passion, as are the Hammer and Nails. (We show the 4 nails of early pictures; later, 3 nails were normally shown, one to pierce both feet - to bring the number into consonance with the Trinity).
Column 3, pane 1: The Rooster, an example of worthy vigilance and industry because it crows the dawn, is here used to bring to mind Christ’s sad prediction about Simon Peter at Gethsemane. We have completed the reference with other emblems of Peter: the Sword which smote off an ear, and the Keys of the gates of Heaven.
Pane 2: Here, the Sabbath, with the Cross poised on it, dominates the other days of the week, shown in their medieval signs, which refer to heathen gods and myths. (Many of these early marks have several meanings. For instance, Friday, day of Freia the Norse goddess-in French Vendredi, the day of Venus, and similarly in other Romance languages - has the circle with a down pointed cross beneath it. This is also the symbol of the planet Venus, the metal copper, female in biology, etc., and is now readopted in “Women’s Lib.” - perhaps a little erratically, since the Venus role of woman is hardly the one they wish to promote.
Panel 3: The White Rose signifies purity, and the Red Rose martyrdom. Roses are traditional symbols with many references, including the thorns protecting virtue, as with the chestnut.
Pane 4: Lord forfend that we should give equal time - or rather equal space - here. But these small drawings represent just seven of the many embodiments of Evil and its master. These, often rather unfair to the creatures cast in the roles, are: Owl, as Prince of Darkness, preying on the weak; the Ape, man’s animal nature; the Fly, for Beezlebub, King of the Flies; the Fox, for his cunning; the Scorpion, tormenting itself in treachery, the Serpent, and (unfairest of all?) the Woodpecker, ostensibly because he picks holes in every virtue (but after all, only to extract insects which are eating away its heart!).
Pane 5: The Seashell was used as a mark of the pilgrim coming from afar, perhaps as evidence that he who wore it on his hat had come across the sea. But the shell surrounding a tender creature is also a simile for putting on the whole armor of Christ.
We have surround our shell with early symbols for the Four Seasons, superimposed on the Cross, lauding Christ as The Son of Man at every season.
Column 4, pane 1: The Sickle, like the scythe wielded by “Father Time,” represents the due reaping of the sheaves of life. The Skull is also a prime reminder of mortality in general, and of Golgotha, the “Place of the Skull,” in dire particular. The Strawberry perhaps because of its resemblance to a heart, has been used to signify the good spirit shown in works. The Star guides wise men to Salvation, as it led the Magi to the manger where Christ lay.
Pane 2: The Swallow has often served as a symbol of the Resurrection, being believed (even by the great Doctor Johnson in his dictionary) to conglebulate with its mates at the coming of inclement weather, and sink to the bottom of  stream to hibernate, rising again at the return of Spring. But indeed the beautiful bird, so welcome in its yearly return, is a fine harbinger of rebirth.
Pane 3: The Bread and Wine, shown here as their origins in Vine and Wheat, stand for the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Pane 4: The glass Vase denotes transparent purity; and the Violet is a floral symbol for humility.
Pane 4: Omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet stands, with Alpha the first, for the whole scope of Christ’s power. The monogram set into the omega is in Latin - “Vivas in Deo” - Mayest thou dwell in God,” a phrase of farewell.
In the final signature panel, the year 1974 is roman numerals is accompanied by four alchemical symbols used to denote the way these windows were formed: glass, enamel, fusion and annealing.

Height: 4'

Width: 4'

Sampler of Christian Symbols, right
Sampler of Christian Symbols, right

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