This year I extended my ministry of hospitality to being a greeter at our Diocesan Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, in Covington, KY. It is truly a jewel of the Greater Cincinnati area. I look forward to my 3 hours there twice a month, welcoming visitors from all over the world to view, pray and experience this most holy temple of the Lord. I learn something new every time: from the visitors, from the history, from the docents, from the art work. The position of the greeter’s desk is directly under the stained glass presentation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, proclaimed as an article of our faith in 1854 by Pope Pius IX.
|The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception|
in the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption,
Covington, Kentucky, Scanned from the book
Stories in Glass.
In the bottom half of this window we see the priests, religious and cardinals witnessing this event: On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX issued an apostolic constitution called Ineffabilis Deus (The Ineffable God). In it he said: “We declare, pronounce, and define thus: the teaching that holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first moments of her conception, had been, by the singular privilege and grace of almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from every stain of the original fault, has been revealed by God and is therefore to be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.”
In the 4 panels above we see four different aspects of the Church’s teaching. In the far left panel an angel holds aloft an open book which proclaims in Latin: (The original sin is not in you.) In the next stands Mary, resplendent in the glory given her by God. Next, Sts. Peter and Paul kneel in acknowledgement of this truth, testifying to its ancient roots And in the far right panel St. Michael the archangel holds a sword, ready to strike at the devil. The devil himself lies prostrate and helpless, holding an open book: (Gen. 3:15: She will crush your head…) Even evil itself testifies to God’s power and majesty.
Above these panels are two scenes. On the left are Adam and Eve in the very act of disobedience. On the right stands Isaiah the prophet, proclaiming “Behold, a virgin will conceive…). These two scenes suggest that God’s providence had already taken human hardness of heart into account, and promises new life.
At the very top of the window the Blesses Mother holds her infant Son, surrounded by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She wears a crown on her head: her eyes look down, a sign of her humility, while He look at us, arms open, inviting us to embrace this mystery. Years later, this child will stretch out His arms on another tree of life, the cross.
May you have the opportunity to view the story told in this window and appreciate more the mystery of God’s saving work in human history. Each of the other 35 Stories in Glass are worth meditating on as well.
(My source for understanding the images was the book, Stories in Glass, by Msgr. William F. Cleves, former rector of the Cathedral Parish, where he describes the stories told in 36 of the 82 stained glass window in the Cathedral.)
Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB