Progress is being made on the remodeling of our chapel vestibule. Plans for the room include new lighting, the plastering of the walls, and new stained glass windows. The new thermopanes have already been installed, and plastering will likely commence sometime in the next month or so based on the schedule of our "master plasterer," Mr. Andy Schmitt. In a recent column I described in detail the meaning and symbolism for our "rooster window." This month we turn our attention to the symbol that will grace the north window of the chapel vestibule. Funds to complete the window were given by Noah and MaryAnn Zuengler. And so we come, to "the pomegranate."
"A pomegranate," you say, "What's a pomegranate, and what does a pomegranate have to do with the Bible?" Well, that's just the reason why I am writing this article.
You might have noticed that these days you are hearing a lot more about the pomegranate. Maybe you have heard the health benefits of the fruit touted, seen "POM" juice in the grocery store, or noticed some pomegranates on the shelves in the produce section. Ever grabbed some Grenadine for your early morning Tequila Sunrise? While the modern version is nothing more than a sugary corn syrup mixture, the original grenadine was made out of pomegranates. (The word "Grenade" is the French word for "pomegranate.")
Pomegranates were grown from ancient times, and while they are not native to the Bible Lands, were cultivated there early on. When the Israelites left Egypt they complained to Moses that there were no pomegranates in the desert. "And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, it is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates..." (Numbers 20:5) God assured them that there would be some in the Promised Land. "For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land ... a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates ... " (Deuteronomy 8:7-8) And when they came to Canaan to spy out the land, what do you think the spies came back with? You guessed it, pomegranates! "Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there cut down a branch with one cluster of grapes ... They also brought some of the pomegranates and figs." (Numbers 13:23) Thankfully they only had to live for forty years without pomegranates.
Solomon seemed to have a fascination with pomegranates, even describing a woman he was in love with in terms of a pomegranate. In something akin to an ancient Jewish pickup line (see Song of Solomon 4:3) it is noted that he said to his beloved, "Your temples behind your veil are like are like a piece of pomegranate." Say what?! (Gentlemen, I would advise you not to try this one on your significant other.) The book continues with further descriptions of the woman he loves as a "garden of pomegranate trees," as well as with a modern day plea of "meet me in the pomegranate orchard." It doesn't end there in Song of Solomon with the pomegranates, but it probably would be best if I did.
Pomegranates were also used as decoration, and this is where we start to see what this fruit meant to the children of Israel. The capitals of the two columns that stood in front of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem were engraved with pomegranates as were the hem of the vestments of the High Priest. "And upon its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe all around." (Exodus 28:33-34) Sounds pretty! The decoration of the pomegranate in the temple likely had something to do with the meaning in the minds of the people of pomegranates as fruitfulness, God's bounty, even symbolic of Paradise.
Speaking of Paradise, it was a common opinion among the Jews that the pomegranate was the fruit that came from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (not the apple). This symbolism was used by Christians as well, bringing us to the modern meaning of the pomegranate. Baby Jesus is often painted holding a pomegranate. The pomegranate became a symbol of what He came to do, take upon Himself the sins of the world, the fruit of sin and death, yet also symbolized what His life and death would accomplish, fruitfulness and life for all. As the flesh of the pomegranate bursts open when ripe, so Christ did not stay dead, but like the pomegranate, burst forth alive. As one fruit with many seeds, the bursting pomegranate symbolizes the fruitfulness and power of Jesus life and resurrection.
Pomegranates grow on shrubs usually about ten to fifteen feet high and contain fresh, green oval leaves with brilliant scarlet blossoms. The pomegranate grows to about the size between a lemon and a grapefruit, and inside the fruit contains several hundred seeds which are each covered with a pulpy ruby red or purple juicy casing and are eaten piece by piece (or squeezed to make juice). They are tart and semi-sweet tasting. The fruit itself actually looks quite similar on the outside to an apple, only that it has a tubular stem on the top of it that is shaped like a crown. The name "pomegranate" comes from the Latin and actually means, "seeded apple."
All this being said, when the new windows are installed sometime early next year, you should thank Mary Ann not just for the window that was donated, but also for the "behind the scenes" work she did towards the completion of this stained glass window project. I am not sure how much time she put into it, but countless hours were spent examining our church windows, looking at books of Christian symbols, coloring and painting numerous window prototypes, and coming up with a final window design that will truly flow seamlessly with the other windows in our congregation. The greatest testimony to her work came from Mr. Abler of Abler Studios in Kiel, who, after comparing her design with his own original drawing simply said, "This is definitely better." I am excited for you to see how beautiful this room and these windows will be! As the verse inscribed on our cornerstone says, "And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands." Psalm 90:17