A PRIMER TO CATHOLIC SYMBOLISM
to the Boston Catholic Journal by a Cloistered Poor Clare
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Symbolism is an artistic representation, an outward
expression, or object, that has shades of various, often hidden
meanings. The most commonly used symbol is probably that of
the Cross. For each of us, the Cross will have various levels
of meaning according to our life's experience .. .this symbol
can convey a wealth of ideas, concepts, scriptural quotes, experiences
of suffering etc.
need symbols in our spiritual journey, they can be points of
focus that lead us into deeper prayer. They all have an
They are part of our patrimony in the Church and perhaps it
would be a good idea to explore again or possibly for the
first time their inner meaning and message.
In the early era of the Church during the times of Christian
persecution, the use of symbols was very prevalent, and a means
of being identified as to belonging to Christ, thus witnessing
to other Christians. They were if you like, the password in
times of persecution.
Christian symbols can be seen carved upon the graves and walls
of the early Christian catacombs in Rome, especially St Priscilla,
Domitilla, and Calixtus.
By taking time to reflect upon each individual symbol we are
brought into timeless contact with our brothers and sisters
of the Christian Faith down through the ages and here
it is important to remember our Catholic teaching on the
Communion of St.s, all those past and present: the
Church Militant on earth, the Church Suffering
in Purgatory, and the Church Victorious in Heaven
all alive to one another, praying, interceding for one another.
Our Christian symbols could be used much more creatively within
the catechetical field where children, and those young in the
faith, will grasp them in their beautiful simplicity and begin
to appreciate the profound meaning within them, for each contains
a entire treasury of thought, a repository of the experience
of life in the Faith in its many joyful, painful and hopeful
Let us explore together these symbols.
The Apha and the Omega the Beginning and the End
am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and
(Apocalypse 22.13) The Name Jesus takes to Himself
in the last book of the New Testament: the Apocalypse
or the Book of Revelation
anchor has always been a sign of safety,
hope, and security, for its primary function is
that of mooring a ship or boat. The safety of a ship in specific
dangerous waters could depend entirely on its ability to throw
the anchor and stabilize the ship. The early Christians combined
the symbol of the anchor with that of the Cross, thus proclaiming
that Christ and His saving Passion were the one true security,
the one sure way to attain Heaven, in times of persecution this
symbol was a powerful image to those caught up in the various
reigns of terror.
It witnessed to the fact that Christ was the true anchor in
the storm of life, the true security, and that His Cross, the
path of suffering would lead all eventually to the heavenly
shore, beyond all pain, suffering and anguish. Hope in Christ,
(see Hebrews Ch 6 verse 19 ) was seen as the soul's anchor.
The whole imagery brought back to the memory and minds of the
early Christian the life and experiences of the Apostles, so
many whom had lived the lives of fishermen, and in light of
the fact that Jesus called them to be,
(St. Matthew 4.19).
In these changing times we would do well to reflect on Christ
as the anchor and our one true hope.
This symbol of the Anchor and Cross is very easy to draw, and
this simple exercise has the potential to root the concept in
our mind, and in times of trouble we will be able to recall
it, for the benefit of our souls.
of the early Church Fathers refer to the Barque, the ship of
Peter, the symbol of the ship represents Holy Mother Church
upon the high seas of life.
It is the nature of a ship that it is always on a journey, it
has a destination and a purpose. It will traverse many dangerous
waters and pass through many trials but with Jesus (our Compass)
we will arrive upon the Eternal Shore.
A good crew will be faithful to their Captain, no matter how
difficult and life threatening the paths through the waters
may be, they will never abandon the ship and neither
must we for She is our Mother.
Mary, the Mother of God depicted as a ship is also an image
of the Church.
The following medieval carol expresses this very well. It is
profoundly beautiful and well worth reflection.
There comes a ship a-sailing
with angels flying fast;
She bears a splendid cargo
and has a mighty mast.
This Ship is fully laden
Right to her highest board;
She bears the Son from Heaven
God's High Eternal Word.
Upon the sea unruffled
The Ship moves into shore
To bring us all the riches
She has within her store.
And that Ship's name is Mary
Of flowers the rose is she
And brings us to her baby
From sin to set us free.
The Ship made in this fashion
In which such store was cast
Her sail is love's sweet Passion
The Holy Ghost her mast.
The symbol of the fish
has been used from very early Christian times (second century)
it can be found in the Catacombs of St. Callistus
The Greek word for fish is ICHTHYS.
The first Christians spontaneously represented Christ by the
emblem of the fish, whose letters, as an acronym, stood for:
Theou Yios Soter:
Jesus Christ, Son of God,
(Jesus) Xristos (Christ) Theou (God) Yios (Son)
the Greek letters are Iota, Chi, Theta, Upsilon, Sigma
of the miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes, it is also associated
with the Holy Eucharist.
whole of the gospel is contained in these words: Jesus
...Yeshua, Savior. Christ ... the Anointed One. Son of
God. The One Who saves.
It is a complete prayer in itself and as such has been used
by countless millions down through the ages. In particular it
recalls to mind all
who carry nothing for the journey, and for whom this is their
constant prayer; in fact, faithfulness to this prayer
alone can bring a soul to great holiness.
For some people, the concept of
is actually repugnant and offensive, they feel it implies a
trap or a snare, not so, to the Semitic mind, the sea was a
place of danger, a place where the evil spirits resided ...
they understood this call of being fishers of men a call to
save others from sin and the power of the evil one.
May the Holy Name of Jesus always be on your mind and in your
in Christian art is a symbol of charity, and a
symbol of the Holy Eucharist.
depicts the Pelican plucking at her breast with her beak, then
feeding her young with the blood that issues forth.
therefore come to symbolize Christ's sacrificial love for the
whole of mankind.
the beautiful Latin hymn, Adoro te devote, in honor of
the Blessed Sacrament, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote:
pellicane, Jesu Domine,
immundum munda tuo sanguine.
una stilla salvum facere
mundum quit ab omni scelere.
by the poet, priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins as;
the tender tale true of the pelican;
me, Jesu Lord, in what Thy bosom ran
whereof a single drop has power to win
the world forgiveness of its world of sin.
tender tale was according to Physiologus:
Pelican is very fond of its brood, but when the young ones
grow they begin to rebel against the male bird and provoke
his anger, so that he kills them, the mother returns to
the nest in three days, sits on the dead birds, pours her
blood over them, revives them, and they feed on her blood.
We are fed upon the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ
for the forgiveness of our sins. The New Covenant of Love
was written in the very Blood of Christ; how blessed we
are, how blessed, to receive the very Blood of Christ, one
single drop can wash us clean ...
HIM totally Who has given Himself totally for you.
is a Greek abbreviation of the title,
are the first two letters in the Greek word Christos
In Greek capital letters they appear as
In Greek Chiro, to anoint, and in Hebrew mashah
denoted a cultic consecration. Through consecration, a king,
a priest, a prophet, an altar were specially set part. The anointing
would confer the Holy Spirit's power, making Him (Christ) the
anointed one, in Hebrew, the Messiah of the Lord.
The New testament applies to Jesus the Old Testament texts concerning
the anointing of the King-Priest. A priestly anointing was not
narrated of Jesus, because He was the high priest, not like
Aaron but according to the order of Melchizedek. While a prophetic
anointing had been attributed to Jesus it was related to His
Jesus is the anointed Messiah.
We have all been anointed at Baptism and are called to be other
in own vocations, other
in our being Catholic Christians.
Christogram IC XC NIKA is often seen on both Greek and
Russian Icons. They form the first three letters of the Greek
name of Jesus, Iota-Eta-Sigma, or ΙΗΣ
It stands for Christ the Conqueror, from the Greek
contractions IC (Jesus), and XC (Christ); Nika
is Greek for Conqueror.
Let us remind ourselves that Jesus Christ has conquered sin
and death, He is the Ultimate Ruler of all. He is Lord.
We all know that in an earthly sense a conquering hero has fought
many battles ... but Jesus Christ is the final Victor over all
conflicts and wars.
for the name of Jesus using the first three letters of the word
in Greek. The Greek Christogram ΙΗΣΟΥΣ (IHSOUS) for Jesus,
and in Latin Iesus Hominum Salvator,
Savior of mankind.
the only Name under heaven by which we may be saved. Jesus,
the Holy Name, the name so loved by so many Saints of the Church.
It is said of St. Francis of Assisi that when he uttered the
Holy Name, he licked his lips, for he said the name of Jesus
contained such sweetness.
The Franciscan St. Bernadine of Sienna did a great deal to promote
the praying of the Holy Name, the Name of Jesus should
be held in the greatest of reverence and respect and never
Our God has allowed us to call Him by His Name!
the most well known and most loved of the Christian
symbols is the simple sign of the Cross with the Corpus
Figure of Christ.
How many prisoners and captives have found solace and strength
in beholding an indentation in the soil traced out as a cross,
or have drawn upon a dirty window pane the form of the Cross,
or even to of observed the crossing of two blades of grass,
or branches of a tree?
How many soldiers far away from home who fell in battle, have
had their mortal remains marked with a line of pebbles, or intertwined
twigs forming the Cross of Christ?
Many people have been saved from suicide after having focused
their attention upon a Cross, whether a man-made symbol or a
sign within nature?
A simple Cross or Crucifix is a sign of salvation and hope,
a reminder of the jewel of our Christian faith, we are also
comforted in our belief in its power to defend us from evil
and to overcome the great adversary, the devil and his demons.
We are, however, accustomed to consider the Sign of the Cross
(Signum Crucis) as wholly a Christian symbol, originating
with the crucifixion of our Redeemer. This is quite erroneous.
In ancient Carthage it was used for ornamental purposes. Runic
Crosses were set up by the Scandinavians as boundary marks,
and were erected over the graves of Kings and heroes.
tells us that the augur's staff with which they marked out the
heaven was a cross.
The ancient Egyptians employed the same as a sacred symbol,
and we see on Greek sculptures, a cake with a cross.
It was also a sacred symbol among the Aztecs long before the
landing of Cortez.
All this can be seen as a prefiguring, a preparation of
humanity for the greatest Cross and Self- giving in love that
the world would ever know, on Calvary.
It also adds weight to the fact, considering its primitive religious
associations, that crucifixion was a deliberate mockery of the
The barbaric roman practice of crucifixion was for the lowest
and most heinous crimes.
But by Christs
sacrificial offering on Calvary, the hitherto sign of shame
became a sign of glory.
In heraldry there are twelve different crosses.
The Cross as a mystic emblem can be reduced to these five:
San Damiano Cross
of St. Francis of Assisi
used as early as the
saltire (X-shaped) cross
upon which the
Apostle Saint Andrew
was crucified, considering
himself unworthy to be
crucified as Jesus was.
Initially used solely by the
Catholic Church, it became
the universal sign of
Also called the Cross of
Saint Anthony of Egypt
symbols above are of interest to us as Catholics inasmuch as
they underscore our understanding of the development and
journey of humanity ever deeper and deeper into the God.
We should treasure and reverence the sign, the mark, the
symbol of the Cross, in darkness and suffering, it is the
symbol that will bring the greatest solace and blessing to
adore you O Christ and we bless you, because by your Holy
Cross you have redeemed the world!
the time of Jesus the lamp was molded out of clay, it was
round and flat, had a pinching on one side to contain the wick,
and was fuelled with olive oil. (Olive oil had many uses and
was considered precious, as it was a valued foodstuff, also
it was a source of light, it could alleviate pain, cleanse wounds,
strengthen the sick, and mixed with perfume it was offered to
guests as a sign of respect).
The Lamp once lit, was placed on a stand and was never permitted
to go out, it burned, bringing warmth and light within the house
day and night. It was also regarded as being made for enlightenment,
and could symbolize vigilance, the prophetic word, and the presence
of God. It was a reminder to the Jew of the Holy Tabernacle,
and so therefore had deep religious significance.
In the book of Exodus, the Lord speaking through Moses says:
you shall command the people of Israel that they
bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light,
that the lamp may be set up to burn perpetually.
In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is
before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend
it from evening to morning before the Lord. It shall
be a statute forever to be observed throughout all
generations by the people of Israel.
was the cradle of Christianity, and the light that burnt before
the Tabernacle in the wilderness was a forerunner to the Vigil
Light that ever burns before Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament
of the Altar.
Lamps and lights have been used symbolically to represent the
life and existence of the soul, both among the living and the
dead. The Romans are said to have preserved lamps in some of
their sepulchers for centuries. In the papacy of Paul III, one
of these lamps was found in the tomb of Tullia (Ciceros
daughter) which had been shut up for 1,550 years.
the dissolution of the monasteries a lamp was found which is
said to have been burning for 1,200 years. Two are preserved
in Leyden Museum.
Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, the Light of the cosmic
world and the light of our inner world; He is the Light that
the darkness can never extinguish. His word is a lamp to our
path (Ps. 118). Lights are signs of hope, symbols that draw
us to the Eternal Light. A wonderful image of the vigilance
of the faithful awaiting the Second-Coming of Christ is
found in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Saint
Lamps and light are bound to this world, to our earthly pilgrimage,
and we need the Light of Christ to bring us to the Blessed Kingdom
Light is only needful where darkness falls. Be it actual or
spiritual, let us follow the Light of Christ.
One day all flames will be extinguished, for He Alone will be
he showed me the river of life, clear as crystal,
gushing from the throne and from the Lamb ... The
throne of God will be in the city and God's people
will live in His presence. They will see His face
and His name will be upon their foreheads. There
will be no more night. They will not need the light
of lamp or sun for God Himself will be their light
and they will reign forever.
Shine upon us, O Light of Christ!
Laurel figures largely in history,
even to this day. The Laurel is an evergreen tree which carries
large, oval, hardy leaves. The Greeks gave a wreath, a crown
(stephanos), to the victor in the Pythian games. The
Romans gave a crown of triumph made of laurels to a general
who obtained victory. St. Paul likens the spiritual journey
and mission to that of a runner at the games.
you learned anything from the stadium? Many run, but only one
gets the prize. Run, therefore intending to win it, as athletes
who impose on themselves a rigorous discipline. Yet for them
the wreath is of laurels that wither, while we run for a wreath
that will never die.
9.24) We have all seen the recent spectacle of the Olympic Games
in Greece and elsewhere, the efforts that all participating
had to make, but they kept the goal ever in view. So we, too,
need to keep our eyes on Jesus, and run ahead for the crown
that awaits us in Heaven.
When a Poor Clare Sister makes her Profession of vows, the choir
faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life
When a sister dies, she is placed in her coffin fully dressed
in her habit, veil and kerchief, a crucifix in her hand, her
vow card upon her heart, and upon her head a crown of laurels,
interspersed with flowers, for she has run her race and now
awaits the crown of glory she will receive from her Lord.
There is a beautiful reading in the apocryphal book of 2 Esdras
chapter 2.42 onwards.
Ezdra, saw an enormous crowd on Mount Zion, too
many people to count. They were all singing and
praising the Lord.
Standing in the middle of this crowd was a very
tall young man, taller than any of the others. He
was placing a crown on the head of each person,
but he towered above them all. I was spellbound
by the sight and I asked,
are these people Sir?
are the people who have taken off their mortal robes
and have put on immortal ones. They have confessed
their faith in God, and now they are being given
crowns and palm braches as symbols of their victory
Then I asked the angel. "Who is the young man who
is putting the crowns of their heads and giving
them the palms?.
is the Son of God,
the angel replied.
us keep the goal in mind, let us keep our eyes on Jesus, heaven
awaits us, all is passing ... Jesus will be our prize and the
joy of the Blessed Kingdom.
lion is considered to be the
of all beasts, no doubt due to its great muscular power and
agility, its strength and ability to dominate all other species.
In its natural habitat it is indeed a magnificent creature.
Many great monarchs and Kings have taken the Lion as a title.
Al Hadira A.D. 62 was called The Lion of God,
because of his religious zeal and courage.
Arioch BC 1927 The Lion, King of Assyria.
Henry, Duke of Bavaria was called,
Lion, because of his daring and bravery.
Richard I, Coeur de Lion (Lions heart)
so called for his bravery.
... and many, many others.
the greatest to ever bear this name, is Our Savior, the Lord
Jesus Christ. Jesus was a descendant of the principal tribe
of Israel, the tribe of Judah. Jesus is the Lion of the tribe
of Judah. The word Judah means, praise. He is the one to Whom
all praise and honor are due, He is the Lion enthroned upon
the praises of Israel. Jesus is the ruler, the King to Whom
rightly belongs the blessing of Jacob.
a young lion! You return from the prey, my son! Like a lion
he stoops and crouches, and like a lioness, who dares to
rouse him? The scepter shall not be taken from Judah, nor
the rulers staff between his feet, until he comes to whom
it belongs, and who has the obedience of the nations.
are many expressions of Lions within Heraldry, numerous postures
being assumed, as well as many stories pertaining to lions in
Probably the most familiar Christian symbol of the lion is applied
to St Mark, who is depicted as a lion. The origin of this is
said to be the fact that St. Mark begins his gospel with scenes
of John the Baptist and Jesus in the wilderness. Indeed at the
time of the writing of the gospels, lions still inhabited caves
A less known concept is the Lion as a symbol of the Resurrection.
According to tradition the lion's whelp is born dead, and remains
so for three days, and when the father breathes on it, it receives
Probably the most beautiful usage of the lion imagery in recent
years are the allegorical stories of C.S Lewis,
Chronicles of Narnia,
in which the main figure is the lion, Aslan, (an image of Christ).
These stories are in one way timeless, showing the fight between
good and evil, of which Aslan is always the victor. The central
Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
within the Narnia Chronicles is the Pascal mystery.
One of the children in the story asks,
does it all mean?,
means, said Aslan,
though the witch knew the deep magic, there is a magic still
deeper which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only
to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further
back, into the stillness and darkness before time dawned, she
would of read there a different incantation. She would have
known that when a willing victim who has committed no treachery
was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and death
itself would start working backwards.
The symbol of the Lion is a powerful one, if you have not read
the chronicles of Narnia, please do, they are suitable for children
of all ages, as well as adults, and can be understood on many
The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered!
In Christian art
the stag has come to typify piety and religious aspiration and
longing. The Stag symbolizes solitude, prayer and purity.
a Deer longs for running streams,
so my souls longs for You O, God.
My soul thirsts for the living God.
beautiful animal is possessed of such grace and majesty, and
deservedly is used to represent the human soul. Indeed the famous
Victorian engraver Edwin Landseer called the stag,
Monarch of the Glen.
His freedom of mobility captivates our imagination and speaks
to us of the freedom of soul we would like to have. His fearlessness
in combat is what we would like to imitate in our encounters
Who could ever forget seeing the silhouette of this noble animal
against a lonely sky?
According to Pliny, the reason why the stag symbolizes Christ
is the superstition that it draws serpents by its breath from
their holes, and then tramples them underfoot.
The Stag is also depicted in artistic representations of some
Christian Saints, St Julian the Hospitaller, St Felix of Valois,
and St Aidan being among them.
the deer longs for running streams ...
Let us too long for the Living water symbolizing, the Word,
the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ himself.
permitting the opening and closing of doors, symbolizes the
one who possesses authority and dominion over a kingdom.
In the book of the prophet Isaiah Ch 9, Verse 5-6 we read;
Child is born to us, a Son is given us; the royal key is laid
upon His shoulder, and His name is proclaimed:
Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
And in Isaiah chapter 22 verses 20-24 we read of Eliakim being
invested with authority and power, through the bestowing of
that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah. I
will clothe him with your robe, I will strengthen him with your
girdle, I will give him your authority, and he will be a father
to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the people of Judah.
Upon his shoulder I will place the key of the house of David:
what he opens, no one shall shut; what he shuts, no one shall
The ancient keys were about a yard long, made of wood or metal.
On public occasions the steward placed the key on his shoulder,
hence to have the key upon one's shoulder meant to be in authority,
to have the keeping of something.
The power of the keys was given to St. Peter by Jesus Christ
now I say to you. You are Peter (or, the Rock) and on this rock
I will build my Church; and never will the power of death overcome
it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever
you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and what you unbind
on earth will be unbound in Heaven.
The power of the keys is the supreme authority vested in the
pope as successor of St. Peter. St. Peter is always represented
in Christian art with two keys in his hand, they are consequently
the insignia of the papacy, and are borne saltire-wise, one
of Gold and the other of Silver.
The supreme Pontiff has the God-given authority to open or close
the doors on the Treasury of the Faith and its practice, and
to unlock and reveal the truth to us as children of the Church.
Ours is to offer loving obedience to the Church, obedience in
the fullest sense of the word of listening and putting what
we hear into practice.
from the Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome circa 3rd century A.D.)
The symbol of the Peacock
was used in art very early into the Christian era, it decorated
some of the tombs and walls in the actual catacombs. The Peacock
represented immortality, this stemmed from the ancient legend
that the flesh of the peacock did not decay, thus its association
with the Resurrection of Christ. In addition the
of eyes" upon its stunningly beautiful fan tail, suggested the
all-seeing eye of God and that of the Church.
This beautiful bird is indigenous to India. It was brought to
King Solomon by his ships from Tarshish, in which case its origin
was probably the Malabar Coast or Ceylon.
It is a great pity that this colorful and captivating bird is
mostly associated in our minds as a symbolism of pride,
as a Peacock".
was once a common oath which was thought to be sacred, precisely
because of it being a type of the Resurrection.
In the book of Genesis we read of Sarah's Egyptian slave-girl,
Hagar, being cast out into the wilderness. There in the desert
Hagar experienced God, as the One who Sees! In other
words, God was aware of the insecurity, pain and desolation
of her life; He saw, and had Hagar, with her unborn child, and
their future all in his heart and hand!
Hagar gave to The Lord who spoke to her, the name of El Roi,
for she said,
have seen the One who sees me.
That is why this well is called the well of Lahai-Roi.
(Genesis 16.13 )
We should take courage from this story, that whatever predicament,
trouble, trial we find our life to be in, God sees it all, He
KNOWS! And He is loving us through it, and calling us beyond
it ... He is the God Who sees! He notices us, small and insignificant
as we are.
Truly our God is a God of consolation.
Let us look upon the Peacock with new eyes and reflect on what
its eyes say to us!
is a magnificent bird with a large wingspan. It nests in inaccessible
rocky crags, in high places, which make it a symbol of heavenly
Job asked of God,
it at Your command that eagles fly, and build their nest on
When the time comes for young eagles to learn to fly, the mother
takes one eaglet upon her wings and soars high above the land.
She then shakes the young one off to make its first attempts
at flight. If she sees her young in any trouble, she dives beneath
it, catches it on her wings and soars aloft again to repeat
the learning process.
The eagle is also often depicted as the bird that takes, carries
a person from danger up to a safe place.
will bear you up, on eagles wings!
one popular hymn tells us.
And from the book of Revelation we read of the woman who had
given birth to a male child (Jesus) and was in danger of being
consumed by the great dragon (the devil).
the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that
she might fly into the desert where she would be looked after
The eagle was used as an emblem long before the Christian era.
It was the ensign of the ancient kings of Babylon and Persia.
The Romans adopted it in conjunction with other devices, but
Marius made it the ensign of the legion.
The Romans also were accustomed to let an eagle fly from the
funeral pyre of a great emperor.
An Eagle in the heraldic language stands for fortitude.
An interesting symbolic expression of the eagle is that seen
on some lecterns or pulpits in churches. The eagle is the natural
enemy of the serpent. The two Testaments are the two outspread
wings of the eagle. On which can often be seen a large open
Its historical usage has led many to utilize the image to signify
power, authority and strength, among them Austria, Former Prussia,
and Russia, to name a few.
Many poets and artists have written about the eagle, and it
continues to fire the imagination of man.
Who can forget that wonderful scene from
Return of the King,
(The last film in the Ring Trilogy), where the hobbits Frodo
Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, their mission accomplished, sitting
upon a lonely craggy mound, surrounded by the disintegrating
mountain, and rivers of molten larva ... when all seems lost...
The exhilarating sight of the appearance of the great eagles
coming down to rescue them and carrying them away from the fire
The eagle in Christian art is emblematic of St. John the Evangelist,
because like the eagle he looked upon,
sun of glory.
The Word of God has the power to raise us up on eagles wings
and bring us to Heaven.
Lily in Christian art is a well known symbol of chastity,
innocence and purity.
In pictures of the Annunciation, or Salutation, the Archangel
Gabriel is sometimes depicted holding a Lily branch, or Mary
herself is clasping a Lily, or there is a Lily in the vicinity.
Mary fairest flower
O Lily glistening white and stainless!
I greet you at this time with
Gabriel's words sublime,
Ave O maid so highly favored!
There is an old tradition that the Lily sprang from the repentant
tears of Eve as she went forth from paradise. Here Mary can
be seen as the New Eve, the Mother of life, who bore the fruit
that redeemed us all from sin and every fall.
The Lily in the language of flowers means,
The Lily as we know it today is a trumpet like flower, stately
and noble. Its large petals open and surrender to the light.
It exudes a beautiful perfume, and bears a high pollen yield.
The white Lily when it is full open resembles a star. It is
a flower of great beauty and it is easy to see why artists have
so often placed it within pictures of the Holy Virgin.
However in Biblical times Lilies, shushan was a collective
term for all the various flowers of the field, lilies, crocuses,
irises, tulips, narcissus, all of which came forth from a womb
is the fruit of thy womb!
A solitary symbol can be a great focus for reflection and prayer,
perhaps you would like to obtain a Lily and place it at your
shrine, prayer space, or take to the classroom. A lily is not
very easy to draw but a symbolic Lily could easily be made out
of white paper. It could be a catechetical focus and also to
give added meaning; put, or ask the children to place their
prayer petitions in its centre and then present the flower to
Mary ... pray and use these symbols creatively. They blossom,
all of them, in eternity.
Jesus and Mary
union between Jesus and Mary: Jesus Christ in the Incarnation
took His flesh from Mary even while He remained
eternally God with the Father. Hence, we state in the Nicene
Creed that Jesus is True God and True Man.
Sacred Host imprinted with the Christogram
The Body of Jesus
Christ really and truly (not
symbolically) after Consecration by the priest during the
Canon of the Mass and received by the faithful during Holy Communion.
Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say unto you: Except
you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you
shall not have life in you.
(St. John 6.53)
Lamb of God Jesus Christ
next day, John saw Jesus coming to him, and he said: Behold
the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world.
(St. John 1.29)
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A Cloistered Poor Clare Colettine Nun in a Papally
For the Boston Catholic Journal