http://www.stpaulswickford.org/ I hope you will enjoy this slide show made today on a visit to historic St. Paul’s in Wickford. The afternoon winter light was just right for viewing the wonderful contemporary and Victorian stained glass. The sacristy is a real treat, with pale cabinetry and a good deal of natural light. There is lots of great storage and room for tall vases. Be sure to check out the last slide of frontlet storage which is suspended from rods in a pull out drawer access- very clever! A little jewel box of a sacristy. Do visit the website above for the history of the parish. The views of the water out of the windows are breath-taking.
With hurricane Earl on the way up the cost and the news that we have had 33 days thus far of over 90 degree days this long summer, what a blessing to contemplate Autumn on the doorstep. Sacristies are smelling fusty, flowers are wilting on the altar, and just about everything needs a cleaning and freshening. I have been in hospital with kidney stones and tooth extractions and am now glad to be back at the computer. Most gardens have taken such a beating this summer in churchyards everywhere, I decided to postpone our church garden crawl until next spring- May looks like a good month.
I recently was looking at a beautiful frontal which was done by the Sisters of St. John Baptist, when the order was in New York. It was done for the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in Newport for St. John the Evangelist on burnt red-orange velvet and has the 7 sacraments in symbols with angels. I shall dig out a photo of this to post tonight. It made me visually try to recollect all the symbols for the sacraments. Without looking at the drawing below- can you remember the sacraments and their symbols!?
Of all the symbols of Easter, perhaps none is so familiar as the Agnus Dei. We see it in woven damask for frontals and vestments, on banners and even on special small linen sets for the altar. It must be crowned with a three-rayed nimbus or halo, signifying that it is a symbol of divinity and is featured with the white ground, red cross Banner of Victory.
The LAMB is the symbol associated with Jesus. He is often referred to in the Bible as the “Lamb of God” (Revelation 5:6-14). John the Baptist described Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Passover lamb (Exodus 12:1-11) has been interpreted by Christians as foreshadowing Jesus’ sacrificial death (1 Corinthians 5:7).
Although the white lily is most often connected to the Mother of God, and is a symbol for purity and innocence, the EASTER LILY, which blooms in the spring close to Easter time has become a popular symbol. Because they are shaped like trumpets, lilies are symbols of immortality (1 Corinthians 15:52). Lilies are seen as pot decoration and cut for altar vases for Easter as well as motifs on church altar rail kneelers, stained glass windows, Easter bulletin decoration and Easter banners.
More rarely seen in decoration or textiles is the BUTTERFLY. It symbolizes the life cycle of Jesus and the Christian in the following order: the caterpillar stage represents natural earthly life; the cocoon represents death of the body; the butterfly emerging from the cocoon represents the resurrection. Another animal connected to the resurrection is the PHOENIX. Believed to have retained its immortality since, unlike the rest of the birds, it refused to eat from the forbidden tree in the garden of Eden.The phoenix lived for 500 years between rejuvenations. Every 500 years, it created a combination funeral pyre/nest for itself of spices and herbs, sat on it and set itself on fire. When the fire died down, an egg would be found among the ashes from which the phoenix which laid it would hatch. It has become a symbol of the resurrection.
Rarely seen in America as a symbol of the resurrection is the SWALLOW which flew around the cross chirping “Svale! Svale!” which is Scandinavian for “Cheer up! Cheer up!” Since this bird hibernates in the mud during the winter, his awakening in the spring is a symbol of the resurrection.
Another rare symbol is the WHALE for as Jesus said “For as Jonas was 3 days and 3 nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth” (Mt 12:40).
The HARE, or wild rabbit is a symbol of the moon. It became associated with Easter because the moon is used to determine the date of Easter. According to the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21st. Have you ever seen this in church? It just might explain the “Easter Bunny” popularity in modern culture at Eastertide.
The PEACOCK Symbolizes immortality and the resurrection since its flesh was once believed to be incorruptible or immune to decay. The peacock damask below was found in a Rhode Island chasuble
The LION and EGG are other resurrection symbols. In the Bible, Jesus is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah. The genealogies of the New Testament point out that Jesus was a descendant of Judah from whom the eternal ruler was to come. The EGG shell can be seen as a nurturing, life giving tomb. The hatching chick represents Christ emerging from the tomb. The resurrection symbolism of the egg is enhanced by the legend of the phoenix.
Do you know of other symbols for the resurrection?
If you have a small shrine in a side aisle or chapel, don’t forget to add a few fresh greens and flowers over the niche or at the base of the statue when doing festival flowers. This is a polychromed woodcarving by Davis D”Ambly of Philadelphia of a young St. John. St. John is portrayed in the familiar coral and green vesture, with his symbol of the snake and chalice. The diapered stenciled door panels in red and blue is a treatment often seen in English churches.
The pedestal to the left of the niche has a bit of a surprise for Christmas- anthuriums! Usually thought of for tropical and exotic floral arrangements- anthuriums are actually a good value as they last a long time if properly tended-and the true red works well with poinsettia and traditional Christmas decoration.
Recently we discussed the symbolism of the pelican as used in church art, textiles and architecture. Two other birds often seen in ecclesiastical usage are the phoenix and the peacock. The peacock is a symbol of immortality because it was once believed that the peacock’s flesh did not decay after death. Early Christian paintings and mosaics use peacock imagery. Peacock feathers are sometimes seen used as church decorations or in floral arrangements during the Easter season.
The peacock replaces his feathers annually; therefore the peacock is also a symbol of renewal. The early Christians praised the many “eyes” in its feathers as signs of the all-seeing God. The fabric swatch above showing a peacock motif is from a rose-violet cope from the 1950’s.
Early belief held that the Gates of Paradise are guarded by a pair of peacocks. Augustine refers to peacocks as a symbol of the resurrection.
In early Catholic art, literature and Catholic symbolism, the Phoenix is a symbol of Christ, representing his resurrection, immortality, and life-after-death. It has been an ancient and universal symbol of the sun and mystical rebirth in many cultures. The legendary red “fire bird” was believed to die in its self-made flames periodically (each hundred years, according to some sources) then rise again out of its own ashes. The phoenix is a popular motif for kneelers, as shown below in needlepoint.
We have a request for a Sacred Pelican embroidery motif. There are numerous transfers which I can send which would have to be applied by tracing on the cloth using transfer paper if you can do your own embroidery. St. Jude’s has a more contemporary machine embroidery banner in several sizes featuring the Pelican at http://www.stjudeshop.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/product.detail/_/Pelican-on-a-Purple-Tapestry-/productID/2cc818b0-2394-4247-8d4d-c75c729bdfbe/categoryID/5e927507-614f-41e1-971c-83c94206561d/
The hunt is on for a new motif or a “recycled” on which has been removed from an old vestment. If you see one, let us know!
Recently I received an inquiry about a symbol of a pelican which was embroidered on the back of a chasuble. When the priest celebrated Mass with back facing the congregation, the beautiful embroidery work was always displayed in the orphreys and vesica on the back of the vestment, often a cross or a symbol of an animal or flower, an object, or sacred monogram. A sign or icon, such as the Pelican , is an object, character, figure, or color used to represent abstract ideas or concepts – a picture that represents an idea. A religious icon, such as the Pelican Christian Symbol, is an image or symbolic representation with sacred significance. “The meanings, origins and ancient traditions surrounding Christian symbols date back to early times when the majority of ordinary people were not able to read or write and printing was unknown. Many were ‘borrowed’ or drawn from early pre-Christian traditions, however the symbol of the pelican, unlike many early Christian symbols, is almost exclusively a Christian icon”. (Catholic Saints)
The pelican can often be seen in stained glass windows, an altar reredos
vestment vesicas, or carved in pew ends or other church architectural elements.
‘Pelican in her piety’ in heraldry and symbolical art, is a representation of a pelican in the act of wounding her breast in order to nourish her young with her blood a practice fabulously attributed to the bird. The pelican cutting open its own breast represents Christ’s death on the cross, and the shedding of his blood to revive us and therefore adopted as a symbol of the Redeemer and of charity. An explanation of this is that the pelican’s bill has a crimson red tip and the contrast of this red tip against the white breast probably gave rise to the tradition that the bird tore her own breast to feed her young with her blood.” (Catholic Saints)