Faith, Form and Light
A Guide to the
Symbols and Meanings of the
Stained Glass Windows
at Christ Anglican Church
PhD Candidate in Art History
at the University of
Stained Glass Art Created By
of Scottsdale Arizona
c h U r c h
35500 N. Cave Creek Rd. • Carefree • AZ 85377
Christ Anglican Church, Stained Glass Windows
The ten stained glass windows in this series are situated along the south and north faces of the church’s
clerestory above the nave. The windows proceed clockwise beginning with the southeast window. Each
window has the same dimensions—approximately 2 ft wide by 3 ft tall—and are each the same height
from the ground (18 ft). The uniform size and elevation create continuity in the series. This continuity,
in turn, is further aided by several repetitions of forms appearing across the series of windows.
First is the repetition of a thick, red external border of uniform width on each side, and a slender white
inner rectangular border, which together frame each window’s central image. The second form which
appears throughout is the vertical, cyan stripe. This bright blue band is comprised of two thin vertical
panes of equal width, such that the central black band that connects them perfectly bifurcates the left
half of the image from the right. This blue stripe runs from the top to bottom in each window,
intersecting the red and white frame.
This placement creates depth in the compositions as we innately understand or assume that the blue
exists in front of the red and white border. The main symbolic and gurative components of each
window appear to rest or hang on the blue band as if it is a pilaster, column, or beam. This lends
additional signicance to the central features as they are, or appear to be, elevated out of and above the
red and white surrounding elds. The consistent presence of the red, white, and blue forms also helps
integrate the windows into the surrounding architecture of the building. Just as each clerestory
window opening is the same size and is positioned at the same height, each image contains the same
essential features. To that end, the border area and band of blue in each window operate both
metaphorically and concretely as a transitional zone between the material realm of the church wall and
the spiritual world represented in each central image.
These repeated forms further parallel the function of the church’s architecture: they provide a
consistent ground to support a multitude of colors, shapes, symbols, and gures just as the physical,
built environment of this church provides a steady space for its many parishioners throughout their
lives and the variations in their journeys of faith. While one’s experience in this church is sacred, it is
not conned to this physical building. We are reminded of this in viewing the aspects of select
windows that are not contained by the red and white frame. These features cross through the
composition’s boundary to reach the edges of the composition.
Ultimately, this movement, expansion, and transformation—both of the compositional elements and in
our daily lives—is the essence of why stained glass is powerful: it embodies the ability for an
immaterial, intangible entity to move through a material form, at once transforming and causing
transformation. The small clear, diamond-shaped panes that appear in each window most acutely
represent this phenomenon as they refract light through colorless glass to reveal a full spectrum of
colors. In doing so, these diamonds provide a reminder that this phenomenal interaction of the physical
and immaterial, of spirit and matter, is as miraculous as it is profoundly simple, universal, and everpresent.
The artist Chris Powers of Scottsdale, Arizona created this series of ten stained glass windows. Powers
conceived of the imagery and was assisted by the utilization of extant designs and collaborative
conversations with the Rev. Canon Steven E. Dart. The Rt. Rev. John Upham blessed the windows on
the twentieth anniversary of the consecration of Christ Anglican Church on November 24, 2019.
Window 1: The Alpha and Omega – the Eternal Son of God
Within the crest at the center of this rst window, in a golden hue against a pale-blue eld,
are the intersected Greek letters, alpha and omega. They appear as if emblazoned on a coat
of arms. The form of the letters echoes and conforms to the surrounding shape: the cap on
the alpha parallels the horizontal top band of the crest, the lower corners of the letters align
with the point at which the crest curves inward, and the two bottom-most points of the
alpha narrow toward one-another, reinforcing the shape the pointed tip of the crest. As if
braided together, each part of one letter crosses over a corresponding part of the other. And
although these letters are both symmetrical, the interweave of letters is not. On the right, the
Omega begins in front, winds behind the alpha, before crossing back over the alpha at the
On the left, the inverse is true. These differences are the only asymmetries in this window.
Yet rather than suggesting an imbalance, that perhaps one side or letter is more meaningful
than the other, the weave indicates the interdependence of these letters and embodies the
symbolic meaning of combining these letters: The alpha, the beginning, is as important as
the end, omega. One cannot be understood or exist without the other. If written as two
separate letters in a conventional way, one next to the other, these letters would be read
either left to right or right to left. In such an arrangement, they would be locked in an
imposed, xed order.
Here, through their interconnectedness, we read them simultaneously, as one unied form.
In this way, this representation of a traditional symbol of Christ epitomizes both the
message contained in the proclamation “I am the Alpha and Omega” (Revelation 22:13) and
the idea that God is everlasting, ever-present within, outside of, and beyond the forward
march of time on Earth.
Window given by
Micah Johnson and Dedicated
to the Glory of God in thanksgiving
for his three gifts;
Peter, Sydney & Keikilani.
Window 2: The Incarnation – the Birth of Christ
This depiction of the incarnation shows Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus framed within a
simple manger. Mary kneels, hands together in prayer, to the left of Jesus. Her head bows
slightly down, indicating the direction of her gaze and her connection to the infant. Jesus
gestures with both arms upward toward Mary and appears to meet her gaze. Through this
composition, an invisible triangle forms between Jesus and Mary: Jesus’ head and hands
exist on the same horizontal plane as Mary’s hands to form the base of this triangle; from
Mary’s hands to her face the left-most plane, and from her eyes to Jesus’ the third plane.
We see a similar pattern of triangular arrangements echoed throughout this window’s
composition. The roof of the manger, the rays beaming down from the Star of Bethlehem,
the three bodies at the center of the image. The triangle is signicant in the context of the
Incarnation because Jesus is the fulllment of the plan of salvation of the triune God.
Triangles are a geometric manifestation of trinities and their form is one of balance,
harmony, and solidity.
Yet, despite the prevalence of the triangular motif in this image, it is important that the
artist chose to represent the incarnation guratively, rather than as an abstraction or
through the use of symbols. There is a reason this is the only window in the series which
includes naturalistic, gurative representations of the human form. This portrayal of
bodies, in turn, underscores the meaning of the Incarnation: with the birth of Jesus, God
entered our human history as man. In this way, picturing Jesus as an infant with Mary and
Joseph at once illustrates the most celebrated event in the Bible while reinforcing the very
meaning of this event.
And join the angels in rejoicing
In God’s gift of Christ’s birth
On the blessings, grace and strength
you receive from God each day
The loved ones who have gone before you
Dedicated to the Glory of God in thanksgiving
For His many blessings
The Opstad Family – 2019
Stan and Judy and their children
Stan III, Ray and Stephannie
Window 3: Chi Rho – the Baptism of Christ
In contrast to the gurative portrayal of the Incarnation, the third window returns to a
symbolic representation of Christ similar to the rst window’s Alpha and Omega — in this
case it is the Christogram, Chi Rho, ☧. Chi (X) and Rho (P) are the rst letters of the Greek
word, “ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ,” or Christos. In their combined, symbolic form, as seen in this window,
the two letters become a monogram of Christ. The Chi Rho is therefore a reminder that
Jesus is the Messiah, or “Christ.”
Yet in this window, the Chi Rho serves a dual purpose—it is not only the Christogram but,
as the focal piece in this composition, it also operates in lieu of a gurative depiction of
Jesus. As the word Christos implies, the Chi Rho is not only a symbol of Jesus, but is
emblematic of Jesus’ baptism, the event from which he began His earthly ministry. In this
image, rather than seeing John the Baptist submerge Jesus in the Jordan River, the Chi Rho
appears in gold surrounded by a circular wreath.
Three aspects of this window cue us to understand the symbol as the representation of
Jesus at the moment of His baptism: the image of the white dove on the right side of the
inner circle, the deep blue background surrounding the Chi Rho, and the four rays
emanating from the upper left corner onto the wreath. According to the Bible, as Jesus
emerged from the river the heavens opened, the Spirit of God descended upon Him in the
form of a dove, and the Father declared: “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well
pleased” (St. Mark 1:11). Here the golden Chi Rho—Jesus—rises above the deep, royal
blue eld of color—the water—as the white dove anks the Chisto Gram.
We understand this image as an event, as a moment in which powerful activity occurred,
by the dove’s open wings indicating ight. Likewise, the subtle tapering of the four rays
from narrowest in the corner to wider as they strike the left quadrant of the wreath
suggests the radiating movement of light from a distant point in the heavens to the
terrestrial realm of Earth, indicated here by muted earthen green leaves and red owers
comprising the circular wreath. The representation of Jesus as the Chi Rho denotes that in
Christ, Heaven has come to Earth.
Window 4: Miracle of Loaves and Fishes – the Miracles of Christ
According to each of the four Gospels, Jesus miraculously fed 5,000 people from just ve
loaves of bread and two sh as shown in the fourth window. This window serves as a
reminder not only that Jesus was a miracle worker, but also that He is the Creator, making
manifest the meaning of God as provider through His miracles.
Although part of a miraculous process, the sh and loaves are made of matter; they are
tangible things. The representation of the sh and loaves as just that—two red sh and ve
tan loaves in a straw-colored, woven basket—reinforces Jesus’ ability to create in palpable
ways. The actual, recognizable objects in this window therefore speak to why His miracles
were impactful: Jesus forged a bridge between the divine and the material world. He made
manifest sustenance for the masses. Furthermore, in viewing this window, we are placed at
the scene of this miraculous event by the blue, undulating curved band in the bottom half
denoting the Sea of Galilee.
Through this, we understand these events as occurring on Earth. The representation of the
sea, as the source of these sh and the site of this miracle, is also a sign of God’s abundance.
He has provided us with the means to not only feed ourselves but also to care for
others—the expansiveness, depth, and ultimate incomprehensibility of the sea serves as a
metaphor for the limitless capacity of God’s grace.
This window further shows the meaning of abundance, the possibility to amplify resources
to serve thousands, by the light it casts throughout the church. While each window casts
different degrees of colorful light, this window underscores the symbolic meaning of
stained glass: sunlight brings an ever-changing, prismatic glow reected on the church
walls through simple material forms—small red, blue, purple, and white oval, rectangular,
and triangular panes of glass—as the God of Love transforms those in whom He shines.
Window 5: Crown of Thorns – the Suffering and Death of Christ
The transformation of light through this window is especially powerful. As sunlight
moves through the garnet hued glass which dominates the majority of the central
rectangular eld, it paints the otherwise white church walls a dramatic red. As this
colored light permeates the church, it carries with it the many symbolic meanings of the
A dark, pewter gray and black tangled and barbed ring comprises the Crown of Thorns.
Encased in the Crown is a solid black central band inscribed with the letters INRI, the
color and sharp pointed ends of which mimic the surrounding web of thorns. Appearing
in stark contrast to the red and the near-opaque gray crown, are three, colorless, narrow
triangular bands with diamond-shaped caps—the nails used in the Crucixion of Christ.
The nails’ pointed ends culminate at the lettering, guiding the viewer’s eye to this central
point and, in turn, to the message and meaning of INRI Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudeorum,
Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.
As a reminder of Jesus’ ultimate and eternal love in the moment of His passion, the nails
in this image pierce the Crown of Thorns. This message is reinforced by how the bands of
glass comprising the nails function within the window: just as the nails are represented
penetrating the crown, they are the only areas through which unobscured and uncolored
light can pass. Combined with the light from the red panes, the light from this window is
both the red of Christ’s sanguinary martyrdom and that of the clear light and love of
Jesus—King of the Jews and the Kingdom of Heaven.
Window 6: Easter Lily and Palm Branches – the Resurrection of
Here, shown as three white lilies, a symbol of rebirth, Christ is resurrected. This
window again repeats the trinity motif seen most clearly in the Nativity and Crown of
Thorns windows. More still, this window reprises the appearance of white in the
trinity. It is as if the three bright nails piercing the Crown of Thorns from window ve
have transformed to this trinity of lilies. This repetition evokes Christ’s transformation;
His emergence from death in a jubilant manifestation of new life, gloried life.
Beyond appearing as a trinity, that they are three blossoms of the same ower,
suggests the divine unity of Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit. As in the Alpha
and Omega and the Chi Rho windows, the lilies here are an embodiment of Christ. We
are clued to this by the color of their stems, which echoes the golden hue in these two
The owers also appear against an oval violet backdrop—the color of the robe placed
on Jesus before his crucixion. The lilies thus can be understood as relating to the
surrounding eld of violet as Christ’s body did to the violet robe. Similarly, below the
lilies are two crossed palm fronds. Appearing in this orientation to the owers, they
evoke the placement of palms throughout the streets of Jerusalem during Jesus’
triumphal entry into the city. The fronds are, in a sense, at the lilies’ feet in much the
same way they were when Jesus entered Jerusalem. Yet notably, the palms appear
fecund as they extend upwards, toward heaven. They are a victorious visualization of
the meaning of resurrection—to rise up and to be revived.
In its combination of violet, palm fronds, and lilies, this image encapsulates the day of
resurrection as well as the processes, events, and rituals leading up to Easter. Just as in
this window the palms and the violet background provide richness and visual support
for the lilies, it is the period of Lent, Palm Sunday, and the commemoration of Good
Friday that give meaning to Easter.
Window 7: Orb, Scepter, and Crown of Christ, Heavenly King –
the Ascension of Christ
Surrounded by a rainbow mandorla are Christ’s golden crown, orb, and scepter. Jesus has
ascended into heaven and reigns in glory as King. The orb, the ancient symbol of rulership,
signies that Christ holds the world in His hands. The scepter, which crosses behind the
orb, represents Christ’s ability to comfort and protect. As such, it reminds us we need not
fear any enemy, not even death.
In breaking the connes of the mandorla, extending to the edges of the white rectangular
inner eld, the scepter also signals that Christ’s work exists and expands beyond the realm
of Heaven. This meaning is compounded by the diagonal direction of the scepter: it slopes
from highest at the left to lowest on the right, echoing the direction of the rays of light in
the Chi Rho window. In that window, the direction of light represented the Holy Spirit’s
descension from Heaven to Earth in the form of a dove and here again, the left to right
descension suggests that even though He has ascended into Heaven, Christ maintains a
continual presence and reach on Earth.
The crown occupies nearly the entire upper half of the mandorla, with the center, highestmost
crest, tting perfectly into the inner, apex of the rainbow. In this way, it is as if the
golden crown itself is giving the mandorla its shape. At the middle of the crown’s center
crest is a red diamond-shaped form, representing the largest of the many gemstones
decorating the crown. A series of small, round rubies dot the crown along its central band.
Below this area, emeralds punctuate a swirling ligree.
As in the Resurrection window, these objects appear against a violet background, denoting
Christ’s royal status. And, carrying over from the Crown of Thorns and Resurrection
windows, the white trinity appears here in the form of three crystalline ovals within each
object. These cut-glass ovals are also prisms which refract light into the very colors of the
rainbow which appear in the mandorla. In doing so, these prisms carry the meaning, and
indeed visual content, of this window into daily life. Through this rainbow light, the world
may bask in God’s incorporeal energy as it radiates from Heaven.
Window 8: Shell and Water – the Sacrament of Holy Baptism
Where the Ascension window offers an experience of grace through prismatic light,
this window describes an essential step in one’s journey to follow Christ’s path into
When Jesus was baptized, He identied with sinners and this pointed to His
crucixion where He would become sin for our sake. Baptism for the believer is the
reception of this saving ministry of Christ and an initiation into the sacramental life of
the Church. In this image, a dove with its wings fully extended appears in the center
of the topmost red band. Its head—which is surrounded by a pale-yellow circle,
which in turn is framed by a larger slightly darker golden semi-circle—points
downward. As such, the dove directs our gaze downward to the shell. If we further
extend this directive our gaze reaches the earthly forms in this image. Further still, our
gaze will extend beyond the window’s frame, ultimately reaching the earth beneath
us. Through this act, we may come to understand how our own baptism, experiences,
and acts of faith on Earth forge a connection to Jesus’ life and, in turn, to God above.”
Repeating the motif of Heavenly light from other windows, four golden rays expand
outward from the dove’s aura. These rays penetrate a turquoise circle, which, in turn,
encloses a light tan cross and a dark blue and silvery gray scalloped-shape shell. This
shell symbolizes pilgrimage; our time on Earth has become the journey to Heaven.
From the shell, three drops of water fall into a halfmoon-shaped royal blue pool.
These droplets appear to rinse the lower portion of the cross’ vertical shaft, denoting
how, through baptism, an external washing brings inner cleansing through the power
of the Cross. From this sacrament, one is reborn a child of God.
Window 9: Pelican Feeding Young with Her Own Flesh – the
Sacrament of Holy Communion
In this window, an ancient symbol of the Eucharist is referenced with a pelican mother
bending her long neck downward toward her three open-beaked nestlings. But, her beak is
closed, indicating that rather than eating from her mouth as birds do, the chicks are nding
At the point where the chicks’ beaks meet their mother’s chest are three red streaks,
evidence that the mother is sacricing her own body to feed her young. To further ensure
her chicks’ survival, she spreads her wings wide to transform herself into a shield against
predators and the elements. By doubly sacricing her body—exposing it to harm and
giving it over as food for her young—the pelican parallels Jesus’ own self-sacrice for all
humanity. This highest form of love, agape, is received through Communion.
The pelican appears within a red quatrefoil. While the four-lobed shape is a form of the
cross, its symmetry and rounded edges speak to its additional meaning as representing the
four ends of the Earth. In this context, we understand that the pelican’s sacrice, as a
representation of Jesus’ sacricial love, is universal. Further adding to this is the
appearance of four cut-glass ovals at each point in the quatrefoil. These cast prismatic light
throughout the church, and, in this case, the light refracts equally from each of the four
points, indicating that Christ’s love is not bound by geography, but is instead universally
Window 10: The Lamb of God – the Sure and Certain Hope of
The series of windows culminates with the Lamb of God. Whereas the pelican represents
sacricial love, this gure symbolizes that Jesus was on Earth God’s Paschal Lamb. He
performs the ultimate sacrice, and in His dying takes away the sins of world.
Shown here holding a banner with a red cross, the Lamb is understood as a victorious
martyr — “Who by His death has destroyed death, and by His rising to life again hath
restored to us everlasting life.” (BCP p.78) The haloed Lamb looks upward, reminding
viewers of Christ’s work to open the gate of Heaven.
We hope you have enjoyed this tour though the stained glass windows
at Christ Anglican Church and you will one day visit in person.