Rosary mysteries stun in abstract windows

Ten new stained glass windows installed at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield depict the mysteries of the rosary in dazzling pieces of abstract art.

The windows mark yet another addition to Our Lady of Loreto’s already-impressive collection of stained glass windows that adorn their enormous chapel. The windows, which were made possible by an anonymous donor, were designed by artist and Littleton native Scott Parsons, who designed the 16 stained glass windows that were installed at the parish in February 2014.

Monsignor Edward Buelt, pastor of Our Lady of Loreto, and the anonymous donor worked with Parsons to conceptualize the windows, which trace the mysteries of the rosary. In addition to sacred Scripture, they drew from theological works of St. Ephrem of Syria, St. John Paul II and Romano Guardini as guiding principles for their design, which depict the mysteries in brilliant color and an artistic style known as abstract realism.

“[They’re] not the usual depictions of the mysteries,” said Monsignor Buelt. “They are abstract realism because the mysteries of our faith are abstract. Abstract art, by its very nature, requires that you put yourself into it in order to draw yourself out of it, and not simply stand before it.”

Monsignor Buelt said the response to the windows from Our Lady of Loreto parishioners has been nothing but positive.

“They love them. They cry when they see them. They speak of them as stunning, exquisite, miraculous, marvelous,” he said. “You can be engaged by them from anywhere, which is what stained glass windows are supposed to do, to teach, to engage, to call us into those mysteries through which light shines to us.”

The Joyful Rosary: The Annunciation the Virgin Mary can be seen in the center of the window, and the bright light at the top represents the Holy Spirt coming down upon Mary at the Annunciation, an allusion to the book of Isaiah when it says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:2). The lilies in the foreground symbolize Mary (white) and Elizabeth (red).

The Joyful Rosary: The Annunciation
the Virgin Mary can be seen in the center of the window, and the bright light at the top represents the Holy Spirt coming down upon Mary at the Annunciation, an allusion to the book of Isaiah when it says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:2). The lilies in the foreground symbolize Mary (white) and Elizabeth (red).

The Joyful Rosary: The Nativity, Presentation and Finding in the Temple Mary and Joseph are shown at the bottom, admiring the baby Jesus in their arms. The presentation of the child Jesus is represented by the two turtledoves. The Hebrew script at the top says the ancient prophecy written in the book of Isaiah, “They name him Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is 9:6).

The Joyful Rosary: The Nativity, Presentation and Finding in the Temple
Mary and Joseph are shown at the bottom, admiring the baby Jesus in their arms. The presentation of the child Jesus is represented by the two turtledoves. The Hebrew script at the top says the ancient prophecy written in the book of Isaiah, “They name him Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is 9:6).

The Luminous Rosary: The Baptism in the Jordan The inspiration for this depiction of Jesus setting the Jordan river ablaze at his Baptism comes from St. Ephram’s Hymns of Faith, where he wrote, “Fire and Spirit are in the womb of her who bore you, Fire and Spirit are in the river in which you were baptized, Fire and Spirit are in our baptism, and in the Bread and Cup is Fire and Holy Spirit.

The Luminous Rosary: The Baptism in the Jordan
The inspiration for this depiction of Jesus setting the Jordan river ablaze at his Baptism comes from St. Ephram’s Hymns of Faith, where he wrote, “Fire and Spirit are in the womb of her who bore you, Fire and Spirit are in the river in which you were baptized, Fire and Spirit are in our baptism, and in the Bread and Cup is Fire and Holy Spirit.”

 

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The Luminous Rosary: The Wedding at Cana and the Proclamation of the Kingdom The grapes and chalices of wine represent Jesus turning the water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana. At the top of this window, the Proclamation of the Kingdom is shown in an untraditional depiction that fuses an image of Jesus with a Reuters photograph of Christians fleeing from ISIS in the Middle East.

The Luminous Rosary: The Transfiguration and the Institution of the Eucharist Jesus is shown as emitting a glowing light from within at the Transfiguration. In the foreground, the institution of the Eucharist is represented by the chalice and the host.

The Luminous Rosary: The Transfiguration and the Institution of the Eucharist
Jesus is shown as emitting a glowing light from within at the Transfiguration. In the foreground, the institution of the Eucharist is represented by the chalice and the host.

The Sorrowful Rosary: The Agony in the Garden A red wing can be seen reaching down behind the profile of Jesus, symbolizing the archangel who comforted Christ during his agony in the garden. Above, cobwebs are formed, representing the death that Christ will soon conquer, as written in the Book of Isaiah: “On this mountain he will destroy…the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever” (Is 25:7).

The Sorrowful Rosary: The Agony in the Garden
A red wing can be seen reaching down behind the profile of Jesus, symbolizing the archangel who comforted Christ during his agony in the garden. Above, cobwebs are formed, representing the death that Christ will soon conquer, as written in the Book of Isaiah: “On this mountain he will destroy…the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever” (Is 25:7).

The Sorrowful Rosary: The Scourging at the Pillar and Crowning with a Crown of Thorns This window might seem a bit out of place at first, as it features perhaps the least abstract image of all the other windows: a rooster. However, Monsignor Buelt explained that the rooster alludes to Peter and his betrayal and denial of Christ before the crucifixion. “What greater scourging is there than we who continue to sin, to deny Christ even in the midst of his agony,” Monsignor Buelt said. The rooster also one has one leg, repressing the crippling effect that sin has on us. “All we can do is hop. We can’t follow Christ if we’re facing him in our sin as opposed to following behind him,” Monsignor Buelt said.

The Sorrowful Rosary: The Scourging at the Pillar and Crowning with a Crown of Thorns
This window might seem a bit out of place at first, as it features perhaps the least abstract image of all the other windows: a rooster. However, Monsignor Buelt explained that the rooster alludes to Peter and his betrayal and denial of Christ before the crucifixion. “What greater scourging is there than we who continue to sin, to deny Christ even in the midst of his agony,” Monsignor Buelt said. The rooster also one has one leg, repressing the crippling effect that sin has on us. “All we can do is hop. We can’t follow Christ if we’re facing him in our sin as opposed to following behind him,” Monsignor Buelt said.

The Sorrowful and Glorious Rosary: The Crucifixion and the Resurrection The Crucifixion of Christ is viscerally depicted in this window. The bottom of the window features a photograph taken at the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut in December 2012, and Christ’s presence above it represents his conquering of the evil of sin through his crucifixion. “The great evil that is what our society has become is nonetheless redeemed and resurrected by Christ,” Monsignor Buelt explained.

The Sorrowful and Glorious Rosary: The Crucifixion and the Resurrection
The Crucifixion of Christ is viscerally depicted in this window. The bottom of the window features a photograph taken at the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut in December 2012, and Christ’s presence above it represents his conquering of the evil of sin through his crucifixion. “The great evil that is what our society has become is nonetheless redeemed and resurrected by Christ,” Monsignor Buelt explained.

The Glorious Rosary: The Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost The same spirit that appeared at the Annunciation engulfs Christ at his Ascension, who is represented here in a glowing blue color. St. Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians that we understand Christ differently after his death, and Monsignor Buelt explained that if before his death Christ was represented as an orange wood flame, he is now shown as a natural, blue carbon flame. The lattices below him are an allusion to the Song of Songs.

The Glorious Rosary: The Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
The same spirit that appeared at the Annunciation engulfs Christ at his Ascension, who is represented here in a glowing blue color. St. Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians that we understand Christ differently after his death, and Monsignor Buelt explained that if before his death Christ was represented as an orange wood flame, he is now shown as a natural, blue carbon flame. The lattices below him are an allusion to the Song of Songs.

The Glorious Rosary: The Second Coming and the Consummation of All Things in Christ Though the final two mysteries of the Rosary are traditionally the Assumption and Crowning of Mary, Monsignor Buelt drew inspiration for this last window from the theologian Romano Guardini, who argued that the final two mysteries are the Second Coming of Christ and the consummation of all things in him. The swirling halo of wildflowers surrounding Christ and the facade of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception symbolize him coming to Colorado. Additionally, Christ is depicted as a young, athletic, beardless man, according to how the early Church described Christ in his Second Coming. The candle flame at the bottom reminds us to “keep your lamps burning brightly, for you do not know when the Son of Man is coming” (Mt 25:13).

The Glorious Rosary: The Second Coming and the Consummation of All Things in Christ
Though the final two mysteries of the Rosary are traditionally the Assumption and Crowning of Mary, Monsignor Buelt drew inspiration for this last window from the theologian Romano Guardini, who argued that the final two mysteries are the Second Coming of Christ and the consummation of all things in him. The swirling halo of wildflowers surrounding Christ and the facade of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception symbolize him coming to Colorado. Additionally, Christ is depicted as a young, athletic, beardless man, according to how the early Church described Christ in his Second Coming. The candle flame at the bottom reminds us to “keep your lamps burning brightly, for you do not know when the Son of Man is coming” (Mt 25:13).

COMING UP: Windows reflect kingdom of God

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Sixteen new pieces of contemporary theological art have been installed at Our Lady of Loreto Church in the form of stained glass windows.

“They’re stunning,” pastor Msgr. Edward Buelt told the Register Feb. 27, while the parish was in the midst of an installation process that began Feb. 24. “Photos don’t even begin to compare to the beauty of the actual windows.”

The new windows were designed by artist and Littleton native Scott Parsons, an art professor at Augustana College in Sioux City, S.D., and a Lutheran Christian whose work for Loreto was influenced by a “Colorado spirituality.” The windows complement the natural elements of stone and wood in the 2003 Romanesque style church at 18000 E. Arapahoe Road in Foxfield—elements designed to reflect the Colorado landscape, according to Msgr. Buelt, including a marble and limestone altar, stone sanctuary, and tall beams of red oak representing trees.

“(I told Scott) we don’t want glass that simply projects light,” Msgr. Buelt said. “We wanted glass that captures it, plays with it and in some sense refashions it, and then throws it into the church.

“Boy have we achieved that in spades,” he said. “In particular the deep golds and the reds.”

They are situated to respond to varying light during the four seasons, according to Parsons, for example, a window representing summer is on the north-facing wall and winter on the south-facing wall.

The windows depict a variety of theological imagery specifically: five circular dome windows facing due east portray the heavenly Jerusalem as revealed in the Book of Revelation, namely the Lamb of God seated on his throne and the tree of life; one circular window to the northwest that represents the marriage of the Lamb of God to “the heavenly Denver”; and 10 rectangular windows on the north and south walls that illustrate the nine ranks of angels and the prince of archangels, St. Michael.

“We were very concerned to follow the ancient tradition and theology of the Church and in particularly Pseudo Dionysius, the most quoted Church father in St. Thomas’ ‘Summa Theologica,’” Msgr. Buelt explained, referring to the well-known theological work of St. Thomas Aquinas.

There St. Thomas cautioned against representing angels in human form.

“We made a very intentional design choice,” Msgr. Buelt continued, “an attempt to capture the very nature of a pure spiritual being, namely an angel, in accord with the teaching of Scripture and the Church Fathers.”

The angels are represented by breath, wind, fire and water, Parsons said, and the material itself made this way: the stained glass is mouth-blown with “breath and wind,” the pigment involves a series of firings and etchings, then the piece is cooled with water.

The windows, financed by an anonymous donor, were fabricated at the Derix Glass Studios in Taunnesstein, Germany, whose work includes St. Joseph Church of Resurrection at Ground Zero in New York and a 6,900-square-foot installation Dome of Light at the Formosa Boulevard Station in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Parsons’ work in the Denver area includes five digital murals designed for the National Cable Television Center and Museum Main Exhibition Hall on the University of Denver campus.

Derix installed the windows along with a local team. They were blessed at the 11 a.m. Mass March 9 and there will be a second blessing at 11 a.m. Mass March 16.

“I invite everyone to come out and engage with the windows,” Msgr. Buelt said. “They are already being hailed as a masterpiece of stained glass and a major advance of contemporary theological art.”

In Msgr. Buelt’s conversations with Barbara Derix—whose family founded Derix Glass Studios, the largest stained glass studio in Europe, in 1866—she relayed that every major artist in Germany who viewed the windows while they were on display at the studio, including world-class glass artist Karl Martin-Hartmann, “halted” before them and commented that they were “as beautifully designed and executed as any,” including being compared favorably to the Chagall windows at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

“They are a major advance because they are so theologically accurate, precisely reflective of the Vatican II exhortation to ‘resourcement’ or return to the sources,” Msgr. Buelt said. “Specifically a return to the Church Fathers and particularly Pseudo Dionysius and St. Thomas Aquinas.”

At the same time they are inspirational, he said, capable of inspiring reflection, joy and beauty in the heart of contemporary man.

“I look forward very much to reflecting with parishioners on their theological meaning and the spirituality of the kingdom of God which they proclaim,” he added.

The experience has been “incredible” and “precious,” according to Parsons.

“To impact the spiritual life of an individual is the highest calling as an artist,” he said.

For more information, visit www.OurLadyofLoreto.org.

Stained Glass Windows and Sacred Music

Where: Our Lady of Loreto Church, 18000 E. Arapahoe Road, Foxfield
What: Blessing of new stained glass windows
When: 11 a.m. Mass March 16

What: Organ concert by Russian performer Marina Omelchenko
When: 7:30 p.m. March 16
Theme: Lord’s passion, creation, marriage feast of the Lamb and angels (as depicted on the new windows)
Cost: free, donations accepted for Mary Mother of God Mission Society, assisting the people and Church in Vladivostok, Russia
Questions: 303-766-3800 or www.OurLadyofLoreto.org