Large stained glass windows, with their bright colours, help to convey the Christian message. The skill of the designers and glaziers, enable worshippers to ponder the meaning of what is portrayed. All the St. Stephen’s windows, except for two of them, were blown out in the blitz. After the war, the Church Council decided to make the church as light as possible, so not all the windows were replaced with stained glass. Even within coloured windows much has been left plain. Five of the replacement windows portray significant moments in the life of the Lord Jesus.
Symbols are used to portray a whole story in a single window.
The important Holy Family are in the central panel, and have haloes. Above them is a dove surrounded by light. This represents the Holy Spirit. The baby Jesus in the manger is the second person of the Godhead, and has always existed. He came to earth to be mankind’s Saviour. He was “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.” He was perfect God and perfect man.
The artist has joined in one picture, events that are years apart in time. The angels above the shepherds on the left, were at the birth. The kings on the right with the star above them, visited about three years later. This window is illuminated at Christmas time.
Peace after the Storm
The vibrant blue green colours of the sky and sea make this window most attractive. The swooping sea gulls in the left panel, the waves lapping against the boat, and the curled sails blowing, give the scene movement. The moment is captured just as Jesus says “peace be still” to the raging storm. The Lord has been asleep in the boat. As the waves started to sink it, the disciples wake Him in fear. At His words the wind ceases, and there is a great calm.
The choice to portray this particular miracle, may be because it shows Jesus is Lord also over nature. It certainly frightened the disciples into asking each other “who is this that even the wind and sea obey him?”
The story is again told by using symbols. The window lights at the top, from left to right, represent a whip and a post for the flogging the circular 30 pieces of silver that Judas received, the spear that pierced his side and the sponge on a stick of hyssop represents the vinegar offered when Jesus said “I thirst”. The next figure is holding his coat which the soldiers did not divide as it was woven in one piece. They gambled for it with the dice. The ladder was used to bring down the dead body. Mary is in a blue robe reaching to the ground. John is on the other side. Mary Magdelene is kneeling, portrayed with loose golden hair. Jesus, on the cross, is the crucified – “lamb of God”, who died for the sin of the whole world.
All three panels show the risen Jesus. The left one is with Mary Magdalene, when she first meets the risen Jesus. The right panel depicts two disciples at Emmaus, as Jesus makes Himself known as He breaks bread.
The middle panel does not show the human Jesus. Instead, in front of the empty tomb, an angel points upwards to a lamb, with a cross, and a standard, surrounded by a glow of light. John the Baptist spoke of Jesus as “the lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” Lambs were sacrificed under the old covenant to cover sin. But they could not remove sin. It needed a descendant of Adam to do that. On the cross, Jesus by His one, perfect and sufficient sacrifice offered Himself, for the sins of the whole world.
This window is full of light. Jesus is shown with the nail prints in his hands and feet. He is surrounded in the glory cloud, which hid him from the disciples sight. The cloud is cross shaped and extends to the angels in the side panels. There is a halo around his head. The scene below the ascending Jesus might easily be of Norwich and not of the Mount of Olives, from which He ascended. But it does convey that his feet no longer touched the ground as he ascended. For the joy that lay before him Jesus had endured the cross, and now, his mission accomplished, he returns to his Father in Heaven.