Pearce Church’s main Sanctuary has a visual focal-point that serves to brighten and beautify our worship space. The colorful cancel window was designed by Mr. James J. O’Hara of Pike Stained Glass Studio in Rochester, NY. He also supervised its installation in 1966.
The Original Painting
The glasswork image is inspired by Holman Hunt’s popular painting The Light of the World (1851-3) and is a representation of Christ through his words in Revelation 3:20 (NLT) – “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” The window, like the original painting, is full of Christian symbolism pieced together in a way that serves to proclaim Jesus as the light of the world. A life-size version of Hunt’s painting now hangs in St Paul’s Cathedral, London (shown here).
Symbolism in the Painting and Chancel Window
Jesus as Lightbearer
Jesus, the light bearer, is represented as coming the night of man’s natural darkness of soul. He is dressed as a prophet, priest, and king – the three offices that he took upon himself as the world’s redeemer.
As prophet, he wears a cape like that of the prophet Elijah, whose mantle fell to his successor, Elisha, when Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2). Jesus, like them, came to call people to repentance and to warn them of coming judgement.
As high priest, who mediates and reconciles by blood sacrifice the conflict between a holy God and rebellious people, Jesus wears the white seamless robe and jeweled breastplate prescribed in Exodus 28. Especially meaningful are the two parts of the breastplate, with the circle symbolizing heaven and eternity; and the square and its twelve precious stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel and the Church, symbolizing the world and time.
As king, he wears a crown of gold, intertwined with the thorns of his humiliation.
The light that Christ brings appears in two forms: a lantern and a halo.
The lesser light from the lantern in his hand represents the light of conscience, revealing sin as its beams shine upon the long-closed door to the human heart. Barred with nails and rusty hinges, it is also encumbered and bound with creeping ivy, brambles, and wild grass symbolic of humankind’s earth-bound nature. Deeply significant is the fact that no outside latch or knob is visible; indicating that if the door is to be opened, it must be opened from the inside. The light from the lantern also falls upon fruit fallen from the tree, likely a symbol of original sin (Genesis 3) and his hereditary guilt. The lantern, it may be further observed, is suspended by a chain wrapped around the wrist which suggests that the light that reveals sin to the sinner appears also to chain the hand of Christ.
The more brilliant light emanates from the head of Christ in the form of a halo signifying his deity. Although the face, less bright, appears subdued, it radiates compassion and the slight inclination of the head toward the door reflects patient expectancy.
The two less prominent feature in the window, the book and the dove, although not in Hunt’s painting, are closely associated with the central figure and serve to reinforce the theme of light.
The open book, inscribed with Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet) is the Word of God, the everlasting gospel and a “light for our path” (Psalm 119:105); and the dove is the Biblical symbol of the Holy Spirit, who serves to illuminate our spiritual understanding (e.g. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16).