Amégée Olongo shares a short reflection on a stained glass window designed by Evie Hone.
Stained glass window of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Evie Hone (1953), in the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes, Farm Street Church, London.
Evie Hone 1894-1955 was an Irish artist, an early pioneer of cubism and a modern master of stained glass. She converted to Catholicism in 1937.
The Assumption window was made in 1953, three years after Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of Mary a dogma. The artwork is composed of vibrant and vivid colours depicting Mary as she is assumed into heaven.
We do not know exactly who was present in this window, but perhaps reflecting on the Scriptural sources we can make a good guess. Scripture mentions many people who would have been close to Our Lady, including a number of other Marys in the four gospels – Mary of Magdala, Mary of Bethany and Mary of Clopas. Traditionally, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene are depicted with the Virgin at the foot of the cross – it is difficult to imagine that they would part from her after the events that follow – perhaps it is these Marys that we see in the window. The apostles too were close to Christ’s mother. Jesus entrusted John the beloved disciple to look after Our Lady. John was at the foot of the Cross where Christ died. In his last words Jesus said “Woman, behold your son, son, behold your mother.” (John19: 26-27). Mary’s lifelong faith and learning were a symbol of hope for the apostles so perhaps the four evangelists: Matthew Mark, Luke and John are depicted in the stained glass supporting her and promoting her role.
What of the other symbols that we find in this window? The Assumption of Our Lady is commemorated by the church as the 4th glorious mystery of the rosary preceding the fifth glorious mystery of our Lady’s coronation as Queen of heaven. The Fleur de Lys or Lily, and crown also appear in the window above her, and symbolise her purity and her regal status.
Notice that Mary is already crowned with a halo to indicate her holiness on earth. And there is a sun, a moon and a star to remind us of the woman in Revelation 12 who is clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and crowned with stars that we believe to represent Mary.
The angels could be the archangels Gabriel and Michael announcing and protecting in equal measure, and ready to crown her as the queen of heaven. The large dove at the top represents the Holy Spirit, providing various roles in Scripture: at Mary’s Annunciation, when John the Baptist baptised Jesus in the Jordan river and the Holy Spirit descended from heaven in the form of a dove and came to rest upon him, and as part of the Trinity. This dove holds a communion host in its beak reminding us of our Eucharistic theology whenever we contemplate Mary.
The Assumption of Mary into heaven
Mary’s Assumption into heaven has been a common belief since ancient times and musicians, artists and poets have always celebrated the Assumption of our Lady through their work. This belief was declared a dogma ex Cathedra in 1950 by Pope Pius the XII. And so Catholics around the world celebrate The Assumption of our Lady into heaven every year on August the 15th. The Assumption is a source of hope for all of us as we are all called to share in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mary has been prepared by God her entire life for this moment where she would be assumed body and soul into heaven. And what we are learning from this stained glass is that we are all called to share the same glory as Mary and Jesus by joining God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in an eternal communion of love. And that we will finally meet our mother Mary, all the angels and saints and those we love after our death.
Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, pray for us.
Amégée Olongo is a member of the Living Stones Community, based at Farm Street Church in London. Living Stones (Pietre Vive) is an international mission of the Jesuits, forming young adults through intellectual and spiritual development on the art and architecture of historic churches. The London group – formed via the Jesuit Young Adult Ministries during the first lockdown of 2020 – has been researching the church, and is beginning to accompany visitors in discovering more about the wonderful heritage of Farm Street. For more information visit pietre-vive.org