Mysterious, Winged Beings
The ritual for the ordination of deacons contains this admonition from the bishop to the newly ordained: “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” At the heart of St. Mary’s Seminary’s task of priestly formation is each seminarian’s personal encounter with Christ who lives in Word and Sacrament. This sacred encounter with the Word of God is intensely personal, but never private; it is an ecclesial act that the seminarian experiences in the midst of the Household of Faith. It is fitting, then, that the Chapel’s façade is dominated by a grand rose window flanked by images representing the four books of the Gospel.
The beauty of the rose window’s sparkling stained glass is revealed when one enters the Chapel, but the power of its meaning is first communicated from the façade. Like the rose windows of grand cathedrals, the Chapel’s rose window is a symbol of Christ whose radiance casts light into the darkness, whose words speak truth, life, and love. The window’s circular shape conveys the eternal nature of Christ, who is himself Alpha and Omega.
As one looks upon the rose window from the outside, in the upper right one sees the carved image of a rising eagle. The eagle taking flight is an appropriate symbol for the Gospel of John, which is primarily concerned with communicating the divinity of Christ.
Moving clockwise, one observes a winged ox, the symbol of the Gospel of Luke. Oxen figured heavily into the sacrifices of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the ox is associated with Luke’s Gospel because the text begins with the narrative of the birth of the John the Baptist, the son of Zechariah, a Temple priest.
Next, one takes note of a winged lion, a representation of the Gospel of Mark. As a symbol of royal strength, the lion reminds us that Mark’s Gospel begins with this sentence: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.” As the true successor of King David, Jesus is indeed the anointed of God—the Christ.
Finally, one sees an image not of an angel, but of a winged man, the symbol of the Gospel of Matthew. With its early emphasis on Jesus’ human lineage traced back to King David, St. Irenaeus called this the Gospel of Christ’s humanity.
These mysterious, winged beings, each holding the sacred book, are sent from the Halls of Heaven to fly into the hearts of men with their life-giving message of the Good News of Jesus Christ. The men of St. Mary’s Seminary are meant to configure our lives to Christ, and to be single-minded in believing what we read, teaching what we believe, and practicing what we teach.
Written by Rev. Mr. Matthew G. Suniga, MLA