Opposite the image of our Lady of Sorrows in the North Rose Window is the image of Jesus crowned with thorns in the South Rose Window, as described in Matthew’s gospel (Mt. 27:27-31): “Then the soldiers of the governor [Pilate] took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him.”
There are other correspondences between the north and south rose windows that can be identified, once we know what to look for.
The west wall also contains a rose window of the same dimensions and layout as the other two. In its center is an image of the Holy Spirit. The yellow panels emanating from this image contrast with the blue panels of the north and south rose windows, indicating that this window has a different theme, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as it has been experienced in the musical worship of the Church, and as it connects the worshiping community to the worship of God in heaven. The Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer at each Mass reminds us of this reality when the priest invites the congregation to join in the “Holy, Holy, Holy” being sung in heaven with the words, “And so, with the Angles and all the Saints we declare your glory as with one voice we acclaim:”
The yellow contrasts with the blue well, especially since the window faces west and receives the afternoon sun. If ever you have stood at the altar at a Saturday evening Mass in the summer you can attest to the “glory” shining into our midst!
Luke 2:34-35 provides the inspiration for these two windows, found in the larger arrangement of the North Rose Window: “and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his [Jesus’] mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’”
The sword on Mary’s shoulder is placed in the same position as the reed found in the image of Jesus crowned with thorns in the center of the South Rose Window. That center window takes as its base text the passage from Matthew 27:28-29.
The central element of each of the three rose windows provides the key for interpreting the inner circle of images. The image of Our Lady of Sorrows, for example, clues us in to the fact that each of the four persons depicted in the inner circle of the rose window are related to Mary in some fashion. In the upper right circle is an image of Mary with St. Anne, her mother, showing her in the Scriptures the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1-3: “Egredietur Virga de Radice Jesse” or, in English, “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom….” This traditional depiction of Mary and St. Anne is also found on the south side of church in the second window from the choir loft. There, too, the two are studying the Scriptures found on St. Anne’s lap.