A favorite verse caught in stained glass

This window detail is in the chapel of the US Naval Academy.

It depicts a favorite moment of mine in the Gospels.

Who can tell me what it is and why?


And the answers…

This is Mark 4:1:

And again he began to teach by the sea side; and a great multitude was gathered together unto him, so that he went up into a ship and sat in the sea: and all the multitude was upon the land by the sea side.

The crowd was so large that the Lord had to get into a boat.  They let it out on a line a distance from the shore so that more people could hear what he had to say as they lined up along the sea.

So… this was an effort of the Lord in mass communication.  

Christ used the technology of the boat and the rope to preach to more people.

This was the first example of …

online ministry.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Antiquarian says:

    I won’t pretend to guess, since these windows are very familiar to me, and maybe someone will figure it out from the picture. For those who have never visited, the length of the nave has windows illustrating Bible verses that deal with the sea, with sailors, or with boats. The apse has the magnificent Tiffany window of Christ walking on the water Father Z posted earlier.

  2. Joe M. says:

    The verse is Mark 4:1

    “Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.”

    I can only take a wild stab as t why it is a favorite, but I have to wonder whether the response this Blog has received is very similar to the response Jesus’ teaching created!

  3. Kay says:

    Well it might be, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, \”and I will make you fishers of men.”

    Jesus is standing in the boat and the disciples are answering the call–maybe.

  4. sugarlandsteve says:

    I’m going with Luke 5:3 — He [Jesus] got into one of the boats — it was Simon’s — and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. (New Jerusalem Bible translation)

    I note that Fr. Z’s blog is “powered by Luke 5:1-11”, so it being his favorite presumedly is related to his call from Christ.

  5. Charivari Rob says:

    Ah, Joe M., you beat me to it.

    It seems to me it is either Mark 4:1 or Luke 5:1-3.

    Some scene of Jesus in a boat, teaching those on the shore.

    If Father Z. is asking us why it’s one of his favorites, I’m drawing a blank.

  6. Cory says:

    I think the reason why it’s your favorite is because the Extraordinary Form has an ocean of Tradition and treasures. Ecclesia Dei is seen as preaching from that ocean to the masses that celebrate the Ordinary Form. Since both forms are of equal weight, it is only fitting that the ocean washes up to the shore, so that the ocean affects the land, and the land affects the ocean. The same is true for both forms, the EF affects the OF, and vice versa!

  7. Ryan says:

    It’s our Lord teaching from the barque of Peter. He continues to do so by His vicar, the Pope.

  8. A young priest says:

    This is when it was said from Peter’s boat, “Amen, Amen, I say unto you say the black and do the red.”

  9. JohnE says:

    The picture doesn’t quite match but I think it might be Mark 4:38-41:

    Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

    In the picture Jesus’ hands could be interpreted as rebuking the wind and the sea. The disciples also appear to be looking at one another and at him and asking “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

  10. Paul from Richfield, MN says:

    My first thought was a depiction of the sea giving up its dead, as is prophesied to happen on the Last Day…

    “The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.”
    -Revelation 20:13

  11. Fr Fenton says:

    I’m going to guess it is the calming of the sea. Remember the Navy Hymn —
    Eternal Father, strong to save
    Whose arm doth bind the restless wave
    Who bidst the mighty ocean deep
    Its own appointed limit keep
    O hear us when we call to Thee
    For those in peril on the sea.

  12. Peter Esser says:

    It seems to me like our Lord in Luke 5:1-11. Obviously it is that scene. But I wonder why the disciples (not just the twelve) are depicted kneeling, with veiled arms. The red background and the gestures of the disciples remind me of paintings of the descendence of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. It may well be that the artist combines the two events in one glas painting. The warm red “flames”, the “oriens ex alto” covers (or frames – my English isn’t sufficient) the Lord’s figure, the boat and the disciples.

    I like Ryans observation that the Lord is teaching from Peter’s bark.

  13. Howard says:

    Clearly it is a depiction of the Ascension, with the blue sky artistically reinterpreted as blue water, and the cloud portrayed as a boat. This accounts for the Eleven (plus Mathias, not yet one of the Twelve) being present, but not a broader sampling of disciples. See http://orthodoxwiki.org/Ascension_icon for a more traditional representation.

    Ask a silly question, get a silly answer. [Gee… thanks.]

  14. ckdexterhaven says:

    I think it is Jesus saying, “come follow me, I will make you fishers of men”. I think it would be a favorite of priests, because priests ARE fishers of men.

  15. Jeff Pinyan says:

    (I’ve scrolled down to avoid peaking/cheating.)

    If that’s Jesus preaching from a boat on the water, and those people are “under” the water, then I’m guessing it’s 1 Peter 3:18-21, where Jesus, after his death, preached in his Spirit in the abode of the dead to those who were formerly disobedient during the time of Noah, thus the ark-and-flood imagery…

  16. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Of course, I’m a dunce, because that’s not from the Gospels. And I try too hard. And can’t read.

  17. Fr Z

    While in Annapolis, try CARPACCIO’s, a very good Italian (Tuscan) restaurant and Wine bar.

    Next time you are in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, let me know and I will show you our recently restored Harrisburg Cathedral (with Tabernacle back in the center)

    Ciao for now

    Fr T

  18. allena says:

    I think I disagree that it is “clearly” the Ascension.

    First of all, the first comment explained that these windows all relate to the sea, which the Ascension doesn’t.

    Also, there are a few key elements that are almost always present in depictions of the Ascension which are not present. The Blessed Mother, The 12 apostles, (not 18, not 11), The hands, feet and side are often arranged to display the stigmata clearly. The Lord is blessing, and gesturing. In the Ascension his hands are usually out to the sides…Also the notion of the boat is not used in reference to the Ascension in any historical art that I know of. Another element missing, are the angels carrying him up to heaven. Usually shown, or using a cloud or other means of indicating heavenly journey. This is how the division between Heaven and earth is usually divided. There would be rocks showing, or earthy type things, and a cloud, angels or some other heavenly indications.

    I would guess that this is indeed a depiction of the verse suggested earlier. By the apparent lack of stigmata, we can deduce that this is before the Crucifixion. There is also 18 people shown, and so this indicates more than the apostles who are numbered 12. There is a boat, and Jesus’s hands are arranged in the traditional “teaching” pose used by artists since the earliest of times.

    Also, under the people kneeling is what could be loaves of bread and fishes…It would be easier to identify if it was a more detailed picture.

    I think it is Father’s favorite picture, because it is when Simon Peter, a “great sinner” was forgiven, and made into a “fisher of men”. This man, a sinner became our first Pope, and then a Saint…It shows God’s infinite mercy and divine plan. Plus as other posters suggested, Father is indeed a fisher of men himself…

    It could also be the calming of the sea, but this would be a highly odd representation of that historically….

  19. Keith says:

    Put out into the deep, and lower your nets for a catch.

  20. Romulus says:

    “Duc in altum.”

    The attentive men do somewhat resemble schooled-up fish, do they not?

    “And they left everything, and followed him.”

  21. Howard says:

    Allena, I was joking.

  22. Matt Q says:

    Howard wrote:

    “Clearly it is a depiction of the Ascension, with the blue sky artistically reinterpreted as blue water, and the cloud portrayed as a boat. This accounts for the Eleven (plus Mathias, not yet one of the Twelve) being present, but not a broader sampling of disciples.”


    It isn’t the Ascension. Jesus didn’t take off from a boat. Since no one’s in the boat with Him, it’s not the calming of the storm, so I like the rendering of the fisher of men. The window is not a play-by-play rendering of the passage it’s representing anyway, so it’s interesting what Father Z’s take on it is. Hopefully he’ll let us know. :)

  23. Antiquarian says:

    If you want to see some of the other windows, there are more pictures at the following link (and if you click on each pic you’ll get an enlargement)– but DON’T go there if you still want to try guessing the verse that is illustrated, it’ll give it away! Of course, you’ll still be able to speculate on why it’s one of Fr Z’s favorites.


  24. Ed Colbert says:

    I think I see nail marks on Jesus’ hands so, I went to the Catechism:

    632 The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was “raised from the dead” presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.

    The Angel to Mary Magdalene Mt 28:7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”

  25. JohnE says:

    When will the answer to this mystery be revealed?

  26. Okay… I updated the top entry for the answer!

  27. Emilio III says:


  28. Howard says:

    Matt Q,

    I’m tempted to say that sure, He left in a flying saucer. You can certainly find web sites that will make that (or any other) ludicrous claim! But I don’t want to be struck dead, so I will resist the temptation.

    Or I could say that this was not Christ, but King Arthur leaving for the Isle of Avalon, and you are mistaking his crown for Christ’s cruciform halo. The kneeling figures would be his distraught faithful knights.

    But I have clearly indicated that this was a joke! Even in the original posting, which ended with “Ask a silly question, get a silly answer”!

  29. JohnE says:

    Ah, so a fishing boat on the sea might somehow explain why it was a webcast and you had to surf the net to get there.

  30. JohnE: You are getting into it now, I see!

  31. allena says:

    Sigh, I see the sarcasim in the post now, but I didn’t before, I thought you meant it….my bad.

    My defense? I have 5 kids, 4 of which are under 6, and not much chance to talk about the imagery used in traditional Catholic art….an art history minor going to waste….

    I beleived it because I have heard people say stuff like that, and it isn’t totally unbelievable.

    I need to get out more and see grownups I’m desperate apparently. :D

    OH how the proud are humbled.

  32. q sugon says:

    I see Jesus emerging from the mouth of a large fish: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

  33. Howard says:

    Sorry, Allena (and Fr. Z), but I thought it was pretty obvious that the window represented exactly what Fr. Z said, Jesus preaching from the boat, so to keep it interesting we might as well play the game of academic over-interpretation which is so popular in some quarters. (Just don’t ever take it seriously!)

    Of course, the most interesting cases of misinterpretation come from a little knowledge, a weird outlook on life, and a vast ignorance of Christian tradition. As one example, I came across a web site once that told a (supposedly true) story in which an American family living in Germany found “creepy crucifixes with SS Death-Heads at the bottom” in the attic. Almost certainly this was not the SS Death-Head, but the skull of Adam (http://www.aquinasandmore.com/images/items/13101lg.jpg), since tradition has it that Golgotha is where the first Adam was buried. Or for another, more outrageous example, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/index.html?curid=6704947. Hopefully, readers will have no trouble seeing what this *truly* represents, but if you’re stuck, here’s a version with English subtitles: http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1154/1023753594_c685fd5bc3.jpg?v=0.

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