Sacred Heart Cathedral

From the Rector, Second Sunday of Lent, 3/3/24

Reading the Cathedral, Part 7.1: The Covenant Windows in the Sanctuary

Within the sanctuary of the Cathedral, one may find four “covenant windows.” These represent the beginning of all time and history, the original covenants God made with man, as well as His saving promises which are fulfilled in Christ. To understand this first set of stained glass, one must know what a covenant is. 

In the Bible, a covenant is not simply a contract between parties, but rather a total and irrevocable commitment of self to another person. You can think, for example, of marriage, which is a total commitment of bride and groom to each other “till death do us part.” In the Old Testament, God, Who incidentally cannot die like a human bride or groom, eternally and perfectly “covenants Himself” to His people on a few explicit occasions: to Adam in creation (Genesis 1), to Noah after the flood (Genesis 8:20-9:17), to Abraham in his fidelity (Genesis 17), to Moses on Sinai (Exodus 19-24), and to King David in a kingdom that will last forever (2 Samuel 7). These Old Testament covenants are then taken up and brought to perfection in the “new and eternal covenant” of the Blood of Christ (Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:19-22). 

This is why we find “covenant windows” in the sanctuary of the Cathedral: it is in this holy place that the New Covenant of Christ is renewed daily on the altar of sacrifice. This is also why these windows “blend” the Old and the New, if you will, to emphasize the unity of God’s plan throughout all of these covenants, as well as their culmination in Christ and His Church. One can see this in the particular images found in the windows.

On the south side of the sanctuary are Noah and Abraham, who represent the Old Testament as a whole along with beginnings of God’s family on earth. Noah especially calls to mind the new creation that was partially begun after the flood and which finally found a climax in Christ (cf. 1 Peter 3:18-22). On the north side are Jesus the High Priest, who is the New Moses interceding on our behalf to the Father (Romans 8:34), and St. Pius X, who, in a sense, represents David, since both the Pope and the ancient King had a love for the Presence of God and for liturgical music. (St. Pius X was also canonized in the year 1954, when the cathedral started to be built.)

With these windows, we are meant to recall God’s everlasting and unbreakable promises. Since He is faithful, He cannot be deceived nor turn back on Himself. “The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was not Yes and No; but in Him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why we utter Amen through Him, to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:19-20). 

These windows therefore also serve as an encouragement and as a warning: we can be like Christ, and receive the promised fruits of redemption and of the Covenant, or we can be left out of the Kingdom. As Saint Paul puts it: “The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13). Let us seek to remain faithful to Christ and His Blood forever! May God make it so!


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