History Blog

Look to The Hill: The East Window (Call to Arms)

Decorative
Centre Block Parliament Hill

Christian History On Parliament Hill

Friends, The  Centre Block and Peace Tower of the Parliament Buildings were built between the years of 1916 and 1927.

The original building was destroyed by fire during the First World War. The Scriptures in The Peace Tower spoke the language of the people at that time. 

The Stained Glass Windows

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 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 South Window is the first window you encounter when you approach the Peace Tower from Wellington Street.

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

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.

You will see that, when you read the quotes as they appear in each window and in their Biblical context. 

The East Window

The East Window of The Peace Tower

The First Vertical Panel 

The first image is of a woman representing 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.

East Window – Victory

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 perceived by looking at a few verses before it – 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’).

The second image, under her feet, represents ‘the people of Canada’ who are gathered in the call to war. Just under the word VICTORY, is the Scripture quotation, ‘Faithful unto death’, from Revelation 2:10. 

The Government’s website, in noting this Scripture verse, indicates that it says “‘Faith’ unto death” but the location of the Scripture text is not cited. The Scripture quoted is actually a single phrase of the whole verse.

East Window- Faithful unto death.

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.

In the third image, under 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. 

East Window – Quit ye like men. Be strong

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.

The Second Vertical Panel

The first image is a man representing LABOUR, and under his feet, people are gathered. Over his head is the Latin phrase, ‘Fortutido, Industria Et Pax’, which means, ‘Strength, Industry and Peace’.

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.

One can see the Biblical virtue of diligence through strength and industry, and the hope for Peace in this image. True Peace comes through Jesus Christ, The Prince of Peace. 

East Window – Labour

The second image is of a trumpeter 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’. According to the Government’s website, these two youths with him represent ‘Faith and Courage’.

East Window – Trumpeter

The third image is found under the feet of these people and is really a Scripture verse which can be found both in Psalm 18:39 and 2 Samuel 22:40. It says, ‘Thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle’. 

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.

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).

Again, Pearson is using that passage to affirm the rightness before God of Canada’s role in World War 1 against Germany. 

East Window – Strength unto the battle.

The Third Vertical Panel

The first image is of a man representing ‘PROGRESS’. He holds a book and a quill. Immediately over his head are smaller images of a crown, a ship, scales and an hourglass.

Above those images is a Latin phrase, Consilio Et Sapienta Ut Homines Adv Bellum which is interpreted as ‘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 again shows the Biblical virtues of seeking wisdom before making important decisions like going to war. It also brings to mind Scripture verses from the Book of Proverbs about the importance of wisdom in making important decisions. 

The Book of Proverbs is considered a ‘wisdom’ book with much of it pointing to the acquisition of wisdom which begins with the ‘fear of God’.  

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

Progress – not least for war – comes through wisdom. Perhaps Architect John A Pearson was acknowledging that God granted Canada wisdom in the way they handled themselves in the war. 

The second image is under Progress’ feet. This is an image of two figures who represent ‘the people of Canada’. One represents all of the women who helped the sick and needy in the war and the other, a dark-skinned person who probably represents the First Nations.

East Window – Women helping in the war

The third image (under the ‘people of Canada) represents a quote from Horace’s Odes which says, ‘True worth that never knows ignoble defeat, shines with undimmed glory’ (Horace’s Odes).

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)

East Window – Horace’s Odes

Recap 

So what kind of ‘Call to Arms’ 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 Christ –1 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 strengthProv. 8:14(Consilio et Sapientia Ad Homines Adv Bellum)

Horace’s OdesTrue worth that never knows ignoble defeat shines with undimmed glory.  

The Christian’s Response

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 Canada and the Allies during World War 1, or of the Church in 2021. 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.

What kind of impact do you think it would have on our country if Parliamentarians were to apply the context of the Scriptures found in the Stained Glass Windows? 

Read a more detailed account of the Scripture Verses on Parliament Hill in the following resources:

You can also browse the store and see other products displaying the Scripture verses.

Author’s Note; Lynette is the owner of ChristianRoots Canada. Blogger. Publisher. Course Creator. Passionate about Canadian History from the perspective of God’s Providence.  

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