Cross: The cross is perhaps the best known of all Christian symbols. In the ancient Church the cross was usually depicted without the figure of Christ. It was adorned and decorated as a symbol of the victory Christ won through His suffering. For the ancient world it was a symbol of humiliation, but for Christians it was a symbol of victory and glory. In Christian art, the figure of the suffering Christ was added to the cross only in medieval times.
Light and Darkness: Before the advent of electricity the symbols of light and darkness were, perhaps, more readily appreciated. The Church's use of these symbols is elemental. Even the orientation of the church buliding (the altar at the east end) is significant. The one liturgy of the Church year where the use of these symbols is most dramatic is the easter Vigil, where the light of one candle representing Christ, is passed on to each one in the assembly, turning darkness into light.
Alpha and Omega: The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, signifying the Beginning and the End. In the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, Jesus calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega, "The first and the last, the beginning and the end, the one who was, who is, and who is to come." He is the Word, the First Word through whom all was created, and the Last Word by whom all will be judged.
Chi Rho: The Greek letters chi and rho (resembling an "X" and a "P") are often superimposed one on the other. Often the chi is rendered in the form of a cross. This symbol is used to indicate Christ since these letters are the first two letters of the word "Christ" in Greek.
Bread and Wine/Wheat and Grapes: Because of the bread and wine they produce, the symbols of wheat and grapes are often used to designate the Eucharist.
Bread is the basic food of every culture and of every age in human history. Made from the toil of human hands, the many grains of wheat are transformed and become one to nourish and sustain us. A meal, in which bread is broken and shared, becomes a means of bonding human beings together. This is the sign Jesus used to describe Himself as the "Bread of Life." Following His command, in faith we take and eat this Bread, His Body, and become one with Him.
From ancient times wine is associated with banquets, joy and celebration, a gift of God to gladden our hearts. The grapes, like the grains of wheat used for bread, are fruits of the earth and give of themselves in order that we might celebrate and be glad. This sign which Jesus used for His Blood, speaks to us of giving and of sacrifice in order that we might enjoy the benefits of His love in the banquet which is the foretaste of heavenly joy
IHS: The first three letters of the name Jesus in Greek.
INRI: These initials are often seen inscribed on a banner or sign on a crucifix. They indicate the first letters of the Latin words which Pilate ordered inscribed above Jesus as He hung on the cross, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews," "Iesus Nazerenus Rex Iudeorum."
Fish: the fish was one of the most important symbols of Christ to the early Christians. In Greek, the phrase, "Jesus Christ, Son of God Savior," is "Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter." The first letters of each of these Greek words, when put together, spell "ichthys," the Greek word for "fish" (ICQUS ).
Lamb: symbol of Christ as the Paschal Lamb and also a symbol for Christians (as Christ is our Shepherd and Peter was told to feed His sheep).
Dove: symbol of the Holy Spirit and used especially in representations of our Lord's Baptism and the Pentecost.
Ship: As those outside of Noah's Ark were destroyed, the ship became a perfect early symbol of the Church. In the same vein, the main part of a church's interior, the place where the people worship, is called a "nave," from the Latin "navis" -- ship.
Rainbow: Sign of the Covenant with Noah. Its 7 colors (from the top down: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet) recall the 7 Sacraments (7 is the sign of Covenant and completion).
The Good Shepherd: Some of the earliest depictions of Christ showHim as the Good Shepherd.
Palm: victory and martyrdom. Palms are especially made use of on Palm Sunday. The ashes of palms used on Palm Sunday are later burned and used on the next year's Ash Wednesday to symbolize mortality and penance.
Scallop shell: the sea shell, especially the scallop shell, is the symbol of Baptism, and is found frequently on Baptismal fonts. The dish used by priests to pour water over the heads of catechumens in Baptism is often scallop-shaped
Butterfly: The beautiful butterfly, with the power of flight, emerging from the apparently lifeless cocoon: what could be a more perfect symbol of the Resurrection?
ICC Religious Education
Immaculate Conception Parish
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