The window closest to the Mary Altar depicts the Baptism of Jesus.
Here the artist departs from Luke’s Gfospel (with its very brief treatment) and incorporates details found in Matthew 3, Mark 1 and John 1.
The medallion at the top shows the hand of God, in a gesture of blessing, with rays of grace beaming down.
John the Baptist [i.e.: the Baptizer] is clothed in the camel hair garment (the texture is well depicted) and leather belt reported in Mark and Matthew, covered with a purple robe with a violet lining (royal colors for the Romans and others, appropriate for the one whom Jesus calls the greatest of all the prophets [Matthew 11: 7-15]). John stands on a rock. His left hand holds a staff surmounted by a cross and with a scroll winding along it bearing John’s words “Ecce agnus dei” (“Behold the Lamb of God… [that takes away the sins of the world.”] John 1:29), words which have become part of the liturgy. John’s right hand grasps a scallop shell, the traditional symbol of baptism, which he uses to pour water on Christ’s head. This is most likely an anachronism; ancient baptisms were performed (as some modern ones are) by immersion. By having a person submerged in and then raised from the water, one’s physical death and resurrection to eternal life as well as one’s death to sin and rising to new life in Christ are graphically illustrated and symbolized (see Romans 6: 1-11).
Christ is robed in a beautiful white garment. There is a nice contrast between the royal crowns which appear in his halo and the lowered head, closed eyes and hands crossed over His breast, gestures demonstrating His humility and submission to both the will of His Father and the work of John. He stands ankle-deep in the water of the Jordan, and the artist has beautifully depicted His immersed feet (a striking and very unusual effect). Above Him, resting on a cloud, is the figure of the Father, with a triangular halo (symbolic of the Trinity), the traditional long white beard (an Eastern symbol of wisdom), a robe of imperial purple gathered by a gold clasp, with brilliant rays lighting Him in glory. His left hand holds the orb surmounted by the cross, symbolic of God’s dominion over all the earth (and by extension, the universe), while His right is raised in a gesture of blessing of the scene below. Below the Father’s head is the dove of the Holy Spirit, a halo around His head and with a sun-like orb as a background. With the figure of Christ below, the three figures illustrate the Trinity. Matthew describes the moment: “…and suddenly, the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice spoke from heaven, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on him.'” (3:16-17)
The sky is beautifully shaded from dark above to light blue on the horizon. Clouds scatter across the sky. A hill to the left stands behind two tall palm trees. Lush vegetation fed by the Jordan (which flows through the desert) fills the area behind Christ and John, including three cattails to the left and three water lilies to the right (Trinitarian references abound in this window). A water lily floats at Christ’s side, a traditional eastern (including far-eastern) symbol of purity and serenity as it rests atop, but is not affected by, the flood. A pink and red bloom to John’s side may be a reference to the deaths by martyrdom of both men.
The medallion at the bottom shows a baptismal font, with the dove of the Holy Spirit perched on its edge. This is a reminder to us that at our baptism we were baptized, not in water alone but, through Christ, “with the Holy Spirit and fire,” (Matthew 3:11). As Christ’s baptism inaugurated His mission to the world, so we are called upon to let the Holy Spirit fan the flames (pneuma in Greek means both “wind” and “spirit”) of God’s love in our hearts so that, aflame with that love, we may fulfill our mission to bring His love to the world by our words and our deeds in the service of our brothers and sisters.