The stained glass window of “The Angel Choir” located in the choir loft. Photograph by Nick Kupensky.
The Windows of St. Mary’s
When you walk into St. Mary’s, one of the most striking features is its art glass windows. The ten windows located in the nave of the church depict angels, saints, and scenes from the New Testament, and each row of windows forms a thematic pair progressing chronologically from Mary’s childhood to the resurrection if read by zigzagging from left to right, front to back. Many of their themes are tailored to the specific concerns of the parishioners and reveal clues about the political and cultural orientation of the church under Kubek’s leadership.
List of Art Glass Windows
- St. Anne and St. Mary
- The Immaculate Conception
- The Annunciation
- The Nativity of Jesus
- St. Mary and the Saints
- The Patronage of Our Lady
- Jesus Saving Peter
- Jesus Crowned with Thorns
- The Road to Calvary and the Women of Jerusalem
- The Resurrection
Odd numbers = left
Even numbers = right
Lower numbers = closer to iconostasis
Higher numbers = closer to narthex
References to labor and work occur a number of times. The first window is dedicated to St. Mary and her mother, St. Anne. Mary is adorned in silver vestments, which compels the viewer to recall that St. Anne is the patron saint of miners based upon comparisons of Mary and Jesus to the precious metals of silver and gold.
The third window depicts the Annunciation, in which an angel holds a banner that reads “Work and Pray.” The representation of Mary is drawn from the apocryphal Gospel of James, which indicates that Mary had woven the veil of the temple of Jerusalem later torn by Christ (illustrated by her spool of yarn). Joseph’s imagery comes from the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, which both reveal his profession to be a carpenter (illustrated by his long saw).
The fifth window (below) of St. Mary and the saints includes what is likely St. Isidore the Farmer, holding a handful of wheat. The patron saint of farmers and laborers, Isidore considered work both the “punishment of sin” and “a remedy against it” (Lives of the Saints).
Finally, in the back of the nave, we even find a shrine to “Our Lady of Mahanoy City,” which was enthroned in St. Mary’s in 1991 to commemorate the parish’s 100th anniversary. The icon depicts Mary seated on her heavenly throne in front of the iconostasis of St. Mary’s church. On her lap, Christ holds a bucket of anthracite coal as “a sign of the principle industry of the area and the great sacrifices of its inhabitants to unearth the coal for the benefit of others,” and he blesses the people “to indicate his continued loving concern and his presence among his people” (Dudick 1991).
The Patronage of St. Mary
As the patroness of the parish, Mary’s role in the life of Christ predominates throughout the stained glass windows. The ninth window depicts the road to Calvary and the women of Jerusalem. Almost the entire window is dedicated to the agony of Mary over the suffering of her child. Christ is depicted on the margins of the window and occupies far less space than the reaction of the women. This choice may be informed by the Gospel of Luke, for when Jesus noticed the women “were beating their breasts and wailing for him,” he turned to them and said: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23: 27-28).
The sixth window dedicated to the Patronage of Our Lady harmonizes with the theme of motherly protection, for Mary is shown to be answering the prayers of children, the poor, and the sick. The grace and power of St. Mary strongly influenced Kubek’s life and work, for these motifs resonate with his poem, “A Mother’s Love” (1923).
In “A Mother’s Love,” he adapts a folktale about the miraculous resurrection of a mother from the dead to ease the suffering of her poverty-stricken son. In the poem, three sons return home to attend their mother’s funeral, and as each of them approach the coffin, they plead for their mother to come back to life. Their reasons for doing so, however, widely differ, and what ultimately persuades the mother to intercede is neither the plea to bring more happiness to the first son’s thriving family nor the appeal to congratulate the second son on his great material wealth, but instead the protection of the third son, who has found himself hungry, impoverished, and despondent.
A Mother’s Love
By Emil Kubek
The first son arrived to visit her grave;
In a hole in the earth his mother now sleeps,
He asks and he begs for her to awake:
“Oh, Mother wake up, and come home with me,
I have a beautiful wife, as calm as a dove,
And wonderful kids, like flowers in May,
Oh, mother of ours, whom we showered with love,
How happy we’d be if you’d join us today.”
– – – All is quiet, the earth falls silent…
– – – And mother keeps on sleeping.
The second son came by horse to her grave,
And was handsomely dressed in a new tailored suit.
“Oh, mother wake up, and see what you’ve made.
I pulled myself up from the straps of my boots!
I’m the tsar’s right hand man, every battle I’ve won,
And the princes and counts bow before me,
Oh mother, get up, be proud of your son,
Come and share in my riches and glory!”
– – – All is quiet, the earth falls silent…
– – – And mother keeps on sleeping.
The smallest son came in old tattered clothes,
With tears in his eyes and cold pale cheeks.
He cried on her grave: “Oh mother of mine,
The depth of my sadness has made my heart weak;
I’ve searched far and wide for love – but in vain,
I’ve starved, and I’ve froze living out in the rain,
Oh mother get up, bring an end to my pain!”
– – – The coffin opened, and at that moment,
– – – She was risen from the dead.
Cyril and Methodius: The Apostles to the Slavs
The most elaborate art glass window may be the fifth, which depicts Mary and the saints. The artist’s choice of which saints to include and the way in which they are organized illuminates the many varied interests of St. Mary’s spiritual leader and his congregation. Western-leaning, Magyarophile, and Catholic, “St. Mary and the Saints” balances references to stoic self-sacrifice and playful humor, dedication to tradition and investment in the future, agricultural and industrial metaphors, Hungarian history and Slavic culture.
List of Saints
St. Cyril (c. 826–869)
St. Methodius (815–885)
St. Yolanda of Hungary (1235–1298)
St. Ladislaus of Hungary (c. 1040–1095)
St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207–1231)
St. Stephen of Hungary (c. 975–1038)
St. Basil the Great (c. 330–379)
St. Lawrence (c. 225–258)
St. Stephen (died c. 34)
St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591)
St. Isidore the Farmer (c. 1070–1130)
In descending order from left to right
The saints given the most important position within the window are the brothers Cyril (born Constantine) and Methodius. Born in Thessalonica in the Byzantine Empire, Cyril and Methodius went on a number of missions to Greater Moravia between 863 and 885 to convert the Slavic tribes of the area to Christianity. In order to do so, they first had to invent an alphabet (Glagolitic) and codify a literary language (Old Church Slavonic) to bring the Bible and other holy writings into a language comprehensible to the Slavs.
Whether Cyril and Methodius’ mission reached the Carpatho-Rusyn lands, however, is an unresolved question, one which has perplexed historians attempting to determine when and how the Carpatho-Rusyns received Christianity. Paul Robert Magocsi describes the two competing foundational myths for the Christianization of the Carpatho-Rusyns — one being Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the other being St. Vladimir:
Traditionally, Rusyn historians have argued that their people received Christianity from the “Apostles to the Slavs,” Cyril and Methodius. [. . .] Ostensibly one of the original Methodian dioceses was based in the Rusyn center of Mukačevo. It should be mentioned that although the Methodic mission brought with it the eastern Byzantine rite, it came “from the west” and was recognized by the Pope. [. . .]
The other theory basically rejects or minimizes the importance of the Methodian mission, and instead associates Christianity in the Carpathians with the arrival of Rusyns (that is, the Rus’ people or those of the Orthodox faith) from the east, most especially after the late tenth century conversion of Rus’ to Christianity carried out by the Kievan grand prince Vladimir (Volodymyr). This “eastern theory” is used, therefore, to justify the “Orthodox origin” of Carpatho-Rusyns (1984: 7).
As we can clearly see from “St. Mary and the Saints,” Kubek’s church emphasized a version of Greek Catholicism that was predominately western in origin, orientation, and style. This “western theory” is also present in Kubek’s high religious poetry, in particular, his spiritual ode “The Three-Bar Cross!” (1922).
In “The Three-Bar Cross,” Kubek establishes a direct connection between the Biblical passion narrative and the historical mission work of Cyril and Methodius; absent from it are references to Vladimir and Olga because, in Kubek’s view, the Carpatho-Rusyns “took this cross from these two apostles” – in other words, not from Vladimir, Kievan Rus’, or Ukrainians. At the same time, towards the end of the poem Kubek launches into a sharp criticism of other Slavic groups who have turned their backs on the true faith (that is, Eastern-rite Christianity) by adopting Roman Catholicism or even Protestantism. For Kubek, it is the “Uhro-Rusyns and brothers from Galicia” who are the inheritors of the Methodian mission and are protected by the cross because of their devotion to it.
The excerpt below begins with the celebration of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.
“The Three-Bar Cross!”
By Emil Kubek
There were three bars on Christ’s Cross,
When he gave his soul on Golgotha.
This was the Cross of Christ, the one on which he endured
Under this cross Cyril and Methodius instructed
The Apostles of the Slavs, among the Carpathians,
In Christ’s faith; —
Under this same Cross,
Under the swift Beskids,
Made a sacrifice
To the irreproachable God!
From these two apostles, we took this cross –
And the liturgy, and the rite,
The alphabet and writing – so that we wouldn’t forget
That this Cross exists for us, the pledge of salvation,
In times of need, a sign of redemption!
On this Cross the Lord suffered death for us,
So that we Rusyns could receive eternal happiness.
Under this holy Cross
In the far away fatherland
The bones of our grandfathers,
In the green Beskids,
We are in a foreign land, –
The land of Washington, –
Although we can’t rest with them right now,
Under this Cross we want to live and die!
Oh, You holy Cross, Godlike power,
Protect your people in all times:
So that we would be faithful to You,
In life and in death.
Save your people,
Give them peace.
Grant them sincere leaders, a good Pastor
To your people;
So that peace, harmony, and the glow of your love will shine,
For happiness, for fortune,
Be with us
Save us Jesus, Christ the Nazarene,
Help us, have mercy upon us! Amen!
St. Lawrence: The Patron Saint of Comedians
Before leaving “St. Mary and the Saints,” find the image of St. Lawrence leaning on a gridiron located in the bottom row on the far left. An archdeacon of Rome during Valerian’s persecution of Christians, St. Lawrence was ordered by the Roman prefect to turn over the treasures of the church, which he instead secretly distributed among the poor. When St. Lawrence was called to relinquish these treasures, he presented the poor and sick as “the riches of the church,” which infuriated the prefect so much that he had St. Lawrence tortured on a hot gridiron. St. Lawrence’s love for God protected him from the pain of the fire while his body burned, and he even mocked the prefect during his execution. At one point, according to the legend, he ridiculed his executioner by saying “Turn me over; this side is well done,” and just before he died, he once again joked: “I’m cooked enough, you may eat” (Lives of the Saints). For this reason, St. Lawrence is often considered the patron saint of comedians.
Kubek, who would have undoubtedly been aware of the life of St. Lawrence, also had a sharp sense of humor in person and in his poetry, so continue to the tour and discover Kubek’s satirical poetry at the West End Café.