The second window from the front of the Mary shrine illustrates “Jesus among the Doctors” or (in the language of the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary), “The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.”
This window illustrates the events reported in the Gospel of St. Luke 2: 41-52. Jesus, together with his parents, has gone up to the Temple at Jerusalem for their annual visit at Passover time (a pilgrimage undertaken to fulfill the requirements of Deuteronomy 16:16). It must have been quite a large family gathering, because Mary and Joseph are reported to have left the city and traveled all day before realizing that Jesus wasn’t with some other relatives and friends. They immediately hurry back to Jerusalem where, after looking all over town for three days (here Luke may be symbolizing the burial of Jesus’s body for three days in the tomb, followed by “finding” Him alive) they discover their son in the Temple, “sitting among the doctors of the law, listening to them and asking them questions.” (vs. 46)
The window depicts the scene at the moment of Mary and Joseph’s discovery of their son. Jesus is portrayed dressed in a white undergarment covered by a light blue robe. Rays in the form of the fleur-de-lis (a stylized lily symbolizing purity and, with its bud and two leaves, perhaps the Trinity) are found in his halo (which may be contrasted with the crosses found in His halos in two windows on the other side of the Church). A red sash (the color of blood, commonly signifying martyrdom) is around His waist. His left hand shows fingers extended as if He is making a point, while His right is lifted upward, pointing to heaven. One foot extends out from beneath His robe, naked to indicate His earthly poverty. His facial expression, posture and gestures all convey an air of authority.
Jesus is surrounded by the Doctors who make an interesting group. Their attention to Jesus clearly indicates they are “astounded at his intelligence and his replies.” (vs. 47) They represent all ages, from the man pictured to Jesus’ left, his face deeply lined with his years, a white band tied around his bald head, to the young scribe sitting on the floor in the lower left of the picture. The scribe is wearing a blue hat and a green tallit (the prayer shawl Jews still wear during their devotions) decorated with gold tassels. All economic classes are represented. The poverty indicated by the plain robe and bare feet of the scribe contrast with the richer attire of other figures such as the man seen just above him, wearing a red hat, sandals, and a purple and brown robe with an embroidered hem.
The artist has devoted much loving attention to the figure of the teacher in the lower right of the window. He wears a rich red robe with a gold zig-zag decoration along the hem, a green tallit embroidered with a checkered border and blue tassels, and very nice sandals. He holds a paper with some Hebrew letters on it, which he is attentively reading. He has a finely chiseled face with a noble aquiline nose and his eyes are wide open and fixed upon the page, as if he were checking a reference being made by Christ.
At the top of the picture, the ten commandments are enshrined in a place of honor within a little alcove separated from the rest of the building by a rail. This may very well be modeled on the architecture of a synagogue rather than the Second Temple whose central focus would have been a reproduction of the Ark of the Covenant, though empty since the original Ark, together with the tablets of Moses disappeared after the Babylonian Captivity. Since this is strictly an indoor scene, it is the only window where the artist has not been able to depict one of his lovely sky scenes.
Last, but hardly least, Mary and Joseph are depicted in the top left of the picture in the act of just entering the temple. She wears a blue robe over her head as if she has just been traveling. St. Joseph wears his traditional russet robe and is carrying a walking staff. They look weary, which is just what one would expect considering they’ve been searching for their son for three days. Parents of adolescents will recognize those looks, Mary’s reprimand: “See how worried your father and I have been…”; the sharpness with which Jesus replies to her: “Why were you looking for me?… Did you not know I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?”; and the resulting bafflement of His parents.
The medallion at the top of the window shows the scriptures on a lectern surmounted by the cross which, for Christians, is their fulfillment. The medallion below depicts the earth (with lines of latitude shown) topped by the cross and with rays of saving grace passing through it. Two circles, one depicting clouds, the other the winds, surround the globe.
Color is used to create several visual axes: the blue of the scribe’s hat and that of the figure to the upper right; the red in the robe of the man in the lower right, Jesus’ sash and the hat of the man to Christ’s right; the dark green tallit of the standing figure and the blue of Mary’s robe; the purple in the figures to Jesus’ right and left and the tan of the robe to his right and upper left. These all have the figure of Jesus as their visual center and serve to draw our eyes to Him.
In this window there may be a word for those of us who are parents. Christ was a good son who, after this episode, left with his parents for Nazareth and “lived under their authority” (vs. 51). However, it may be something of a comfort to reflect that even the members of the Holy Family had their misunderstandings and things weren’t always sweetness and light. Still, as we know, He turned out great, and we can believe that our children will, too. This might be a good window before which to pray for our “holy families."
Thanks to Rabbi Norman Golmer, Rabbi Sylvia Scholnick and Professor Devorah Weisberg for their gracious help in interpreting this window.