Symbolism is to convey the hidden meaning to the reader or listener. It tells us about artistic expression and represents abstract ideas. However, it is not limited to poetry and art. Christianity is one of the major religions followed throughout the world. Christian symbols are objects, artwork, acts, and events with inner meaning. They are used to respect faith and help to unite the people of common faith and traditions. These symbols make it easy to understand the religion in the light of history. Each symbol has a story and representation behind it. Christian symbols fertile the ground of our faith and throw light on that specific era. Some of them are mentioned below.
The cross is one of the oldest and most universal of all symbols. It represents the wooden cross on which Christ was sacrificed. There are two types of crosses in Christianity – Latin cross and Greek cross. Latin cross symbolizes the passion of Christ or the Atonement. The Greek cross symbolizes Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for mankind. The double cross or patriarchal cross is a symbol of patriarchs and archbishops. This cross has two vertical bars instead of one. The Pope exclusively uses the cross with triple bars. It is called ‘Papal cross’. The cross generally is a symbol of suffering as well as hope. The empty cross favored by protestants, while Catholic and Orthodox churches favor the crucifix (cross with Jesus’ crucified body).
A chalice is a cup from which consecrated wine and water of the Eucharist are given during Holy Communion. The Chalice is a symbol of Christian faith. Its significance goes back to the Old Testament. It symbolizes the glass from which Christ drank during his last supper. This symbol is of Christ’s power to redeem humanity. It represents a place in the human body intimately connected with all thinking of purifications and transformation, living and healing, energy, and manifestation.
The Censer is a vessel in which incense is burned. It is cup-shaped with a pierced cover, hung by chains. According to Old Testament Censer symbolizes the pleas of worshippers, and their prayers would be acceptable to God. Psalm 14:12- “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice”. The smoke of incense symbolizes the prayers of the faithful ascending of Heaven. It is considered as an image to please God. Its sweet aroma symbolizes something pleasing and acceptable. It is also a sign of reverence and dedication.
The Bells represent the ‘voice of God’ and ‘voice of eternity’. A Bell in church towers and spires summon the congregation to worship, just like an alarm or a reminder. The bell at the altar announces the coming of Christ Eucharist. It is also for the warning to demons. Some protestant churches ring the bells during the congregational recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, after the sermon, to alert those who are unable to be present to ‘unite themselves in spirit with congregation’.
Blood is the symbol of life and soul. Despite the denominational differences, every Christian believe that Jesus Christ shed His blood upon the cross to redeem mankind from its sins. The blood (red color) becomes the symbol of all those martyrs who died due to their faith in Jesus Christ. The concept can be tied back to the sacrifice of animals on an altar to atone for the sins of people.
Ichthys is a Greek word and means fish. This word is further described as I= Jesus, C= Christ, TH=God, U=son. We can find several references for fish in the Bible, such as feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fish (Matthew 14: 15-21). There is also Jesus calling his disciples to be “fishers of men”. He fed huge groups of followers meals of fish ( Mathew 14:13-21). The fish is a symbol for persecuted believers and the followers of Jesus. When Romans became suspicious of Christians, the followers of Christ selected the symbol of fish for them to recognize each other. Jesus included several fishermen in his close circle. The symbolism of these fishermen represented their commission to bring souls into knowledge and recognition of Christ as the savior.
It is the symbol for hope in the future, steadfastness, calm, composure, and safety. It brings together the cross and nautical Christian symbolism, and it symbolizes the Christian hope in Christ amid a turbulent world. Christ is our anchor to the ocean floor, our connections to ultimate reality, and the forerunner who passed through the veil. According to the ancient world, the anchor symbolizes safety. In Christianity, it is a symbol of hope which Christians have in Christ.
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:19-20). It also symbolizes stability for the Christians in the storms of life. The shape of an anchor simulates the shape of the cross, which is a symbol for Christ’s death and crucifixion.
Crown Of Thorns
In Christianity, the thorns symbolize sin, grief, sorrow, and wickedness. Jesus wore the crown of thorns when he walked along the Via Dolorosa before the crucifixion. It is mentioned in the Gospel, ‘and when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee and mocked him, saying Hail, King of the Jews!’. It is an emblem of Christ’s passion. He absorbed the responsibility of our sins and paid the price for them.
The Christian Rosary presents the devotee with a structure for prayer. It is an excellent weapon given to believers in their battle against every single evil that haunts us. Praying Rosary is considered as a sort of penance after confession. It is a symbol of faith, with it we are invited to consider the life, passion, and death. The counting on the beads of Rosary is like stepping towards firm belief and faith. Using a Rosary is most common among the Catholics.
It is one of the earliest symbols of Christianity. It invokes the crucifixion of Jesus as well as symbolizing his status as a Christ. Emperor Constantine employed it as an emblem on his military standard, the labarum and ancient Welsh and Scottish tomb monuments bear this sacred symbol carved in stone. It is the symbol of the order of Saint Matthew. It means no matter what are the hardships of the world, the single symbol (of God), or its power can save us.