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Look to The Hill #2 – The East Window (Call to Arms)

There are 3 Stained Glass Windows in the Peace Tower of the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings. They each have a different theme.  The artist, Frank J. Hollister, used Scripture verses and Biblical images to bring out the theme of each window. 

The Scripture verses quoted throughout the Peace Tower are from the King James Version of the Bible. Some of them are partial verses, and some of them have a bigger, spiritual context than is represented. They will be quoted as they are found in each window, and then they will be quoted in their Biblical context. 

The East Window represents a call to war – physical and spiritual war, with the Scriptures and the images representing the ‘Call to Arms’

 The South Window represents remembrance after war, and the Scriptures and images represent, ‘The Assembly of Remembrance’.

The West Window represents peace following a just war, with the Scriptures and images celebrating peace. It is called ‘The Dawn of Peace’.

If this context of the Scriptures found in the Stained Glass Windows were applied to Government and politics today, what kind of impact do you think it would have on our country? 

We will first look at three of the four top panels in the East Window – ‘The Call to Arms’. 

In the first panel there is an image of a woman representing VICTORY. Under her feet, ‘the people of Canada’ are gathered in the call to war. Under their feet (the people of Canada) is the Scripture, ’Quit ye like men. Be strong’ (1 Cor. 16:36).

In the second panel, there is the image of a man representing LABOUR, and under his feet, people are gathered. A trumpeter is in the foreground with a trumpet to his mouth and a sword in the other hand. He is the figure calling the people ‘to arms’. Under these people are the words, ‘Thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle’ (Psalm 18:39).

In the third panel, there is the image of a man representing ‘PROGRESS’.  Under his feet, are two figures. One represents ‘WOMANHOOD’ and the other, a dark-skinned person probably representing the First Nations. Under their feet is the saying, ‘True worth that never knows ignoble defeat, shines with undimmed glory’ (Horace’s Odes).

If we look at images in the first panel moving from top to bottom, we see the image of a woman representing the theme of VICTORY. She holds in her hand, the ‘crown of victory’. Above her is the Scripture, Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory (1 Corinthians 15:57). Her head is surrounded by a laurel branch and two red shields. On one shield is a helmet and on the other is a cross.

 In this passage, God gives victory over death to His people because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The context for that Scripture can be observed by looking at a few verses before it. 

This is what we read, from 1 Corinthians 15:54-57:

So when this corruptible [body] shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal [body] shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (Notice the repetition of ‘victory’).

In the section under the feet of VICTORY, just before the representation of the ‘people of Canada’, is the Scripture, Faithful unto death. The Government’s website says ‘Faith’ unto death and the location of the Scripture text is not cited. This Scripture quoted is actually a single phrase from Revelation 2:10. 

 

In its entirety, Revelation 2:10 reads: Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

In this passage, Christ is telling his people who are facing persecution to be faithful even to the point of death. And, if they are, they will receive a crown of life. The ‘crown of life’, in Christian circles, is often used interchangeably with the term ‘the crown of victory’. That crown of life comes through the victory over death that has been accomplished by Christ in His resurrection.

Beneath the feet of the ‘people of Canada’, is the Scripture, Quit ye like men be strong (Act like men, be strong [ESV]) 1 Corinthians 16:13. This is only a part of the verse. 

In its entirety it reads: Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit ye like men, be strong. This verse is a call to alertness and faithfulness, which requires strength – strength of character and strength against opposition. Those who are faithful have demonstrated strength. Those who are strong are faithful. 

You can see the connection between this verse and Revelation 2:10. (Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life). As a result, act like men. Be strong.

If we to were look at images in the second panel, moving from top to bottom, we will see that the image of a man who represents the theme of LABOUR. He stands  under symbols such as a shovel and an astrolabe and the phrase Fortitudo Industria et Pax (Strength, Industry and Peace). Under him a man holds a sword, and has a trumpet to his mouth. There are two other figures with him. He calls the people ‘To Arms’. Under their feet you can see the Scripture, Thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle (Psalm 18:39).

This is one of the few Scriptures, of the 25 that there are, mentioned on the Government’s website. When we look at this passage in context, Verses 32, 35, 37-39 we read:

It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. (Verse 32)

Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great (Verse 35).

I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed. I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.

For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me (Verses 37-39)

In this passage, David rejoices over his success in the battle against his enemies. It talks about God’s provision for His people to wage war successfully, not to shrink from battle. The passage affirms that victory comes from God.

Again, Pearson is using that passage to affirm the rightness before God of Canada’s role in World War 1 against Germany. The image for Labour possibly commends all Canadians for serving in the war effort, with all the different skills and expertise they possessed, for the unified purpose of defeating the enemy.

If we look at images in the third panel, moving from top to bottom, the image of a man represents the theme of PROGRESS. He is holding a book and a quill. Over his head are other symbols such as a crown, a ship, scales, and an hourglass. 

Above those symbols are the Latin words, Conselio Et Sapientia Ut  Homines Adv Bellum (Counsel and wisdom as men consider war). The warning is that war should not be entered into lightly. It should be done with wise counsel and wisdom. This saying is not a Biblical reference, but it might bring to mind a Scripture from the book of Proverbs about the importance of wisdom in making important decisions. 

Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength (Prov. 8:14)

Progress – not least for war – comes through wisdom. Pearson appears to be commending the wisdom exercised by Canada in the way it executed its role in the war effort. Perhaps he is acknowledging that God granted Canada wisdom in the way they handled themselves in the war. 

Under the image of PROGRESS, we see more of the people of Canada. This time, there is a female figure representing all women who helped in war, and also a dark-skinned person. Under their feet is the quote from Horace’s Odes – True worth that never knows ignoble defeat shines with undimmed glory. This quote almost lines up with the sentiment the Psalmist David expresses in Psalm 18: 37-39: 

I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed. I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet. For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me (Verses 37-39)

 So what kind of Victory does the East Window portray?

The passages John A Pearson used, speak to the spiritual conflict in this life, a conflict in which Christians face persecution and attacks from enemies. The  4 Scriptures quoted say:

  • So when this corruptible [body] shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal [body] shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ1 Cor. 15:54-57. 
  • Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life – Rev. 2:10.
  •  Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit ye like men, be strong (1 Cor. 16:13).
  • It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. (Verse 32). Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great (Verse 35). I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed. I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet. For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me (Verses 37-39)
  • Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength (Prov. 8:14). (Consilio et Sapientia Ad Homines Adv Bellum)

Horace’s Odes – True worth that never knows ignoble defeat shines with undimmed glory.  

Christians are still called to exercise strength and faithfulness, in a conflict in which God has already given the victory through Jesus Christ. Pearson clearly saw World War 1 as a necessary conflict in which Canada and the Allies fought a just war in pursuit of a just peace. 

He, therefore, used Scripture, albeit some of them out of their original context, to affirm that the victory that Canada enjoyed was given by God. He saw Canada’s enemies as enemies of justice and truth. As such, they were enemies of God’s work in this world; His work in Canada. 

God’s enemies could be seen as persecutors of the Church as well as enemies of Canada and the Allies. Canadians who participated in our country’s war effort, demonstrated faithfulness and strength, in the face of a daunting enemy. 

This should be seen as an expression of the battles we fight against spiritual enemies. We should commend Pearson for working from the view that God’s work is visible throughout the scope of human life. God’s work rests not simply in the life of the church or in those “spiritual” realms of our activity.

It may not be appropriate to associate Canada’s role and activity in World War 1 explicitly with the redemptive work of Christ. 

But when we see Christ exalted through the inclusion of 1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christin the design of the window, we turn our hearts to this redemptive work of Christ, point others to it, and celebrate the inclusion of this passage in this grand historic monument.

We should note that each of these stained glass windows has a Scripture engraved in stone above it on the outside of the Peace Tower. Above this East window is engraved Canada’s motto: He shall have dominion also from sea to sea (Psalm 72:8).

Psalm 72 is a messianic Psalm that stresses the exclusivity of God’s claim to rule over nations, and the certain defeat of His enemies. It, like many of the themes in the stained glass windows, points to the importance of justice and peace, and of God coming to the aid of the needy and afflicted. It emphasizes that only the rule of Christ can accomplish this.

How fitting for this Scripture to be engraved over the window that records Canada’s ‘Call to Arms’ in view of what we have already discussed about the message communicated by this window.

Next in the series: Look to The Hill – The South Window

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Update: We are excited to report that our new book, (The Legacy of 25 Scriptures on Parliament Hill) will be at the printers soon. It is in the final stages of editing. There are over 60 pages of colour with detailed explanations.  

You can get some free copies of the book, after printing, when you donate to its printing at our  GOFUNDME campaign here. Most of these pictures have NEVER been seen before. Many people do not even know that they exist. We will help you to leave a Christian Legacy for your children.

 

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