This window tells the story of Moses’ first meeting with God, which took place on Mount Horeb. Moses was looking after his father-in-law’s sheep on the mountain when he spotted a bush that was on fire, yet was not being burned up. When he investigated further, God called to Moses from the middle of the bush.
This event proved to be life-changing for Moses and for the Israelites. It was where God gave Moses a mission – to approach Pharaoh for permission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. This meeting at the burning bush was also where “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” revealed his mysterious name to Moses – Yahweh, which means “I am who I am”.
Preaching on the story, Pope Francis explained: “When God called him, Moses was, in human terms, ‘a failure’. The Book of Exodus portrays him in the land of Midian as a fugitive. As a young man he had felt compassion for his people, and had aligned himself in defense of the oppressed. But he soon discovered that, despite his good intentions, it was not justice, but violence that flowed from his hands.”
He went on: “Thus his dreams of glory were shattered: Moses was no longer a promising official, destined to rise rapidly in his career, but rather one who gambled away opportunities, and now grazed a flock that was not even his own. And it was precisely in the silence of the Midian desert that God summoned Moses to the revelation of the burning bush: “‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’. And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Exodus 3:6).
This stained glass scene of Moses at the burning bush forms part of a larger window based on the biblical theme of ‘fire’. Designed by the architect Stephen Tsang, the window was installed in the new church hall of St Thomas More, Swiss Cottage, in August 2017. Here we see Moses, with his sandals removed as instructed, praying before the burning bush. To the right, the Israelites are seen leaving Egypt, reflecting Moses’ new mission.
The larger window to which this scene belongs traces the fiery action of the Holy Spirit throughout biblical history. The story begins with the Spirit hovering over the waters, at the start of creation. It then pictures the explusion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, while an angel wields a sword of fire. Below, Noah offers a fiery sacrifice to God in thanksgiving for surviving the Flood.
In the lower part of the window, the image of Moses at the burning bush is paired with the Descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of fire, at Pentecost. The swirling circles and overlapping scenes underline how the stories are linked, not just by the theme of fire, but by the intervention of the Holy Spirit throughout the history of God’s people.
See the full image:
The upper half of the window:
Where to find this work of art
St Thomas More’s Church Hall, Swiss Cottage
Read the relevant passage
On a similar theme
- From the Old Testament: Moses’ second major encounter with God, when he received the Ten Commandments, also took place on Mount Horeb (Sinai).
- From the New Testament: The window, in its presentation of the theme of fire of God, links the story with The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.