Original Typescript



By tradition, the art painted in the sanctuary, here on its apsidal wall, should refer to Christ and His Mysteries, even when the title of the church refers to Our Lady.  Stained-glass windows in the church already described the Sorrows of Our Lady.  I[2] looked for a sorrow of hers not included in the traditional series and linked directly to Christ’s Mysteries.  The Ascension of Our Lord, glorious in nature, nevertheless represents a parting of Mother and Son and thus, from Mary’s point of view, a Sorrow.  This double nature of the Mystery, glorious and sorrowful, allows a striking visualization based on contrast.  The white of Christ ascending is framed in yellows suggesting the full light of Heaven.  The black of Mary is framed between the gray silhouettes of the departing apostles in a subdued light that suggests dawn or dusk.

Even in the glorious scene above, the title of the church is further suggested by the two angels holding accessories of the Passion; on the left, some of the linen used in the entombment and, on the right, Veronica’s veil.  These allude to the Passion and to Mary’s Compassion.

On earth, the theme of the Ascension follows the inspired text.  Angels appear[3] to the apostles and bid them be on their way to evangelize the world.  On the left, St. Peter, holding the traveler’s staff to which are attached the keys, receives instructions from an angel.  On the right, St. James, chosen here as patron of missionaries[4] to far-flung lands, is dressed up in the traditional cloak and wide-brimmed hat of the pilgrim.  An angel gives him the pilgrim’s staff, from which hangs the water gourd needed on his long voyage.  On the left of Our Lady, a prophet holding a scroll symbolizes the inspired writers of the Old Testament.  Above him an angel, his finger pointing to the scroll, illustrates the fact of his inspiration.  On the right of Our Lady, St. John the Evangelist, holding a book, represents both himself and the other evangelists.  The book, a more modern form than the scroll, refers to the New Testament in visual terms.  Above John, an angel also represents the inspiration from above. 

The center of the whole panel and thus the center of the whole fresco, including the ceiling panels, remains Our Lady.  The chalice she holds symbolizes Her Sorrows.  Her Sorrow, however, is not passive.  Though static in the midst of action, she represents the meditative facet without which action cannot bear fruits.


[1] Original typescript of “Fresco in the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, Farmington,” The Parish Bulletin of Our Lady of Sorrows, Vol. XI, No. , Sept. 24, 1961, pp. 1, 3.  Partially republished in Our Lady of Sorrows: 1927–1977, Custombook, Inc. (private printing for Our Lady of Sorrows, Farmington Michigan), Hackensack, 1977, p. 22.  Edited by John Charlot. 

[2] Omit: To avoid duplication. 

[3] Replaces: have appeared. 

[4] Replaces: pilgrims.