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Symbolism is some kind of 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.
We need symbols
in our spiritual journey, they can be points of focus that lead
us into deeper prayer. They all have an ecclesial dimension.
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.
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,
"Fishers of men."
(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 (our16th Pope).
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,
(Christ) Theou (God) Yios (Son) Sotare (Savior)the Greek letters
are Iota, Chi, Theta, Upsilon, Sigma
Because of the
miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes, it is also associated
with the Holy Eucharist.
The whole of
the gospel is contained in these words: Jesus ...Yeshua,
Savior. Christ ... the Anointed One. Son of God. The One Who
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 "Pilgrims" 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 "Fishers of men" 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.
The symbol depicts
the Pelican plucking at her breast with her beak, then feeding
her young with the blood that issues forth.
It has therefore
come to symbolize Christ's sacrificial love for the whole of
In the beautiful
Latin hymn, Adoro te devote, in honor of the Blessed
Sacrament, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote:
pellicane, Jesu Domine,
munda tuo sanguine.
stilla salvum facere
quit ab omni scelere.
by the poet, priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins as;
tender tale true of the pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu
Lord, in what Thy bosum ran--
a single drop has power to win
All the world
forgiveness of its world of sin.
The tender tale
was according to Physiologus:
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
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 ...
Love HIM totally
Who has given Himself totally for you.
Chi Ro monogram
is a Greek abbreviation of the title, "Christ".
"Chi" and "Rho" are the first two letters in the Greek word
Christos or "Christ".
In Greek capital letters they appear as " X" and "P".
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 Spirit's power, making him 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
This 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
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, "Jesus
saviour 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
Our God has allowed us to call Him by His Name!
San Damiano Cross
of St. Francis of Assisi
Probably the most well known and most loved of the Christian
symbols is the simple sign of the Cross.
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.
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
"gods". The barbaric roman practice of crucifixion was for the
lowest and most heinous crimes.
But by Christ's sacrificial offering on Calvary, the hitherto
sign of shame became a sign of glory.
there are twelve different crosses.
The Cross as a mystic emblem can be reduced to these four.
found on Assyrian tablets,
Egyptian and Persian monuments,
and on Etruscan pottery.
common in ancient sculpture.
This symbol is found on coins,
long before the Christian era.
Tau Cross with a handle
is common to several Egyptian deities, as Isis,
and is the emblem of immortality and life generally.
The 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 our souls.
"We 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."
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 (Cicero's daughter)
which had been shut up for 1,550 years.
At 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.
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"
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.
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
sing, "Be 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 verses 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, "Who are
these people Sir?"
He replied, "These 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?". "He
is the Son of God," the angel replied."
Let 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 "King" 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, "The Lion",
because of his daring and bravery.
Richard I, Coeur de Lion (Lion's heart)
so called for his bravery.
... and many, many others.
But 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"
There are many
expressions of Lions within Heraldry, numerous postures being
assumed, as well as many stories pertaining to lions in Classical
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, "The 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 theme of, "The Lion, the Witch and the
Wardrobe" within the Narnia Chronicles is the Pascal mystery.
One of the children in the story asks, "What does it all mean?",
"It means", said Aslan, "that 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.
"As a Deer longs
for running streams,
so my souls longs for You O, God.
My soul thirsts for the living God"
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, "The Monarch of the
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.
deer longs for running streams ..."
Let us too long for the Living water symbolizing, the Word,
the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ himself.
The Keys, permitting the opening and closing of doors,
symbolizes the one who possesses authority and dominion over
In the book of the prophet Isaiah Ch 9, Verse 5-6 we read;
is born to us, a Son is given us; the royal key is laid upon
His shoulder, and His name is proclaimed: "Wonderful 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
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 open."
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
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.
(Peacock from the
Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome circa 3rd century A.D.)
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 "multitude of eyes" upon its stunningly beautiful
fan tail, suggested the all-seeing eye of God and that of the
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, " Proud
as a Peacock".
"By the Peacock!", was once a common oath which was thought
to be sacred, precisely because of it being a 'type' of the
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!
to Yahweh who spoke to her, the name of El Roi, for she
said, "I 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!
The eagle is a magnificent bird with a large wingspan.
It nests in inaccessible rocky crags, in high places, which
make it a symbol of heavenly beings.
Job asked of God,
"Is it at
command that eagles fly, and build their nest on high?"
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. "I 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).
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 the "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, "the 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
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.
" Hail 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 favoured!"
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, "Majesty". 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
"Blessed 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.
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