The Gifts of the Magi Window

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise mena from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”  Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Matthew 2:1-12

He stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” He answered, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter; he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.” When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him, and after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa. About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.  Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate. They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, threea men are searching for you. Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” They answered, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” So Peterb invited them in and gave them lodging.  The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the believers from Joppa accompanied him. The following day they came to Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. On Peter’s arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshiped him. But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found that many had assembled; and he said to them, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. Now may I ask why you sent for me?”  30 Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this very hour, at three o’clock, I was praying in my house when suddenly a man in dazzling clothes stood before me. He said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.

Acts 10:4-31

His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

Luke 1:50

This window is from the chapel at Fairntosh Plantation.  It was given by the descendants of Duncan Cameron and installed in 1975.  Because of the early date when it was crafted, it is probably European. 

The single panel depicts the presentation of the gifts to the Christ child by the Wise Men from the East.  This popular Christmas story appears only in Matthew’s Gospel.  The well-known elements of the story are in the panel.  The guiding star shines on the Christ child.  The Wise Men (magi) entered “the house,…saw the child with Mary his mother…fell down and worshipped him…(and) offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:1-12). 

The artist has frozen in time the events as they are unfolding and added pomegranates, ripe and bursting with the fullness of time.  In the Bible, pomegranates represent the fruitfulness of the Promised Land, spring, fertility and restoration to God’s favor.  For Matthew, the Magi represent the best of the Gentile world — earthly dominion, riches and intellectual glory.  Matthew describes Jesus as a new Moses who brings a new Passover for all which, in the fullness of time, draws all to the worship of God. 

Still, the artist has frozen the events.  The action described in the Gospel is not finished.  The dilemma of the fullness of time come and yet to come is carried into the lower panel.  The scriptural verses come from Acts and Luke.  The first is a reference to Cornelius, a Roman soldier who loved God.  Because of his work, Cornelius had a vision of a man saying to him, “Cornelius, thy prayer is heard and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.”  (Acts 10:31)

When Peter heard this from him, he exclaimed, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”  (Acts 10:35)This is one of the most succinct summaries of the early Christian proclamations.The second verse in the panel is from the Song of Mary (The Magnificat) in Luke 1:50, “And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.”

The blessedness which is associated most strongly with Mary does not come from having been chosen for special service.  Blessedness comes from the trust (i.e. fear) that God fulfills what has been spoken.

Installed 1975, circa 1859 (artist unknown)

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close