The Stained Glass Windows of Saint Mark
“And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.” Luke 24:50-51
Hugh Hawkins Howell, 1888
Ethleen Horne Howell, 1891
The Ascension of Christ is given an explicit New Testament account only in Acts 1:6-11. The “longer ending” of Mark (16:9-20) is not found in the best manuscripts and probably was written by the second-century presbyter Aristion or Ariston. Luke 24:51-52 is textually suspect and the best texts bracket the words “and carried up into heaven."
There is little reference to the Ascension in the earliest Christian teaching, and it was probably not felt to mark so complete a break in Jesus’ earthly fellowship with his disciples as it is now often regarded as doing. Paul, in I Corinthians 15, enumerates the resurrection “appearances” without any reference to the Ascension. With the growth of the tradition of the “forty days,” the Resurrection implied first a temporary renewal of earthly intercourse with the disciples, followed by the Ascension as a separate event.
Jesus, clothed in symbolic colors of red and white, is depicted rising into the air. A nimbus of light, signifying a divine personage, surrounds his head. The marks of the nails show in his hands and the visible right foot.
Eleven disciples, in various attitudes of prayer, wonder, and devotion, stand and kneel in the foreground. Some are looking at Jesus while others have their heads bowed or cast their gaze in another direction. Their solemn countenances reflect the mood of the event. Twelve stars in the sky represent the complete circle of twelve apostles which was derived from the twelve tribes of Israel.
This window contains twelve figures, the most of any window in the church, yet with no effect of crowding. The window is made of 1,395 pieces of glass. The pictorial section contains 816 pieces, the medallion 168, and the canopy sections 411.
The medallion at the top of the window is composed of an ascending dove, gold triangle, blue circle, and three rays of light. When symbolic of the Holy Spirit, the dove is always depicted as descending. The unusual posture of the bird here raises an interesting but difficult theological question about the locus and function of the Holy Spirit in connection with the Ascension of Christ. The gold triangle is a symbol of the Holy Trinity, each side of the triangle representing a “Person” of the Godhead. The blue circle represents eternity because it is without beginning and without end. The three rays of light are another reference to the Trinity.
This window was dedicated, with the “Baptism of Christ” and “Come Unto Me” windows, by the Reverend Dr. Dow Kirkpatrick, Minister of Saint Mark Church, and Bishop Arthur J. Moore of the Atlanta Area of the Methodist Church, at the Morning Worship Service on Sunday, April 19, 1959.
Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Hawkins Howell, Sr. have been members of Saint Mark Church for more than 50 years. Mr. Howell has served as President of the Board of Trustees, as Superintendent of the Sunday School and as a member of the Official Board. He has served as a Trustee of the Methodist Children’s Home in Decatur. Mr. Howell has practiced law for more than 60 years, is a former chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, and is the recipient of numerous high honors and awards. Mrs. Howell has been active in the Women’s Society of Christian Service and the Richardson Bible Class. She has taught in the Church School, been a member of the Official Board, and served for 25 years as chairman of memorial and honorary flowers for the sanctuary. A horticulturist, she is a former President of the Georgia Rose Society.