Christianity in general, and Catholicism specifically have a lot of symbols. Some of them are pretty well known, like the cross and crucifix. But some are much less known or outright obscure. Here are 7 symbols of the faith that you may not have known before and their meanings.
Those pretty guys you see flying around every spring and summer? Totally a symbol of the faith! How? Because a caterpillar has to transform into a butterfly, a butterfly symbolizes transformation through the faith. Simcha Fisher has a cool piece on this transformative process.
Once you saw this, you probably knew what it was but now you also know its proper name! You may know this symbol by its other name, a Celtic knot. This is a symbol for the Holy Trinity. The three identical loops interlock in a perfect patter that shows their communion and equality. Pretty neat!
Bet you never thought of this simple shape as anything more than that! But it has a few meanings in our Catholic faith: Never-ending love, eternal life, even a halo (which represents holiness). Now you’ll never look at a circle in the same way again. You’re welcome.
Ancient Greeks believes that this bird didn’t decompose after death. Christians picked this up and made it mean eternal life. Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor called peacocks the king of the birds and had a flock of her own. When you combine these meanings, king of the birds and eternal life, you get symbol for Jesus, King of Kings, too!
Fleur de Lis
If you’re from New Orleans, you probably know this symbol really well. It stands for the lily and the lily is a symbol of resurrection. The lily is also a symbol of purity, which is why St. Joseph is often depicted holding one!
Another bird! The pelican is said to take its own flesh to feed its young if it cannot find other food. This, then, makes the pelican a symbol of the Eucharist, Christ’s literal body and blood given to us to sustain us. This is a phenomenal example of God’s design mimicking his life, and his life that’s present in his design. Pretty cool!
Personally, I’m afraid of bees. If it flies and can sting you, I’m out! But in the life of the Church, bees take on a different meaning. St. John Chrysostom wrote, in his 12th Homily, “The bee is more honored than other animals, not because it labors, but because it labors for others.” So bees are a symbol of working for the good of others, which we in the Church do in model of our Lord, Jesus Christ. There is some other symbolism connected with bees, too. Worker bees do not reproduce and so they are a symbol of chastity. Bees also collect pollen from many different plants and change it all into honey, so they are a symbol of wisdom. They are also a symbol of two of the Doctors of the Church, St. Ambrose and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who are called the “mellifuus” and “mellificuus” doctors because their words and works were “sweet as honey”. With all this symbolism, maybe I’ll have to rethink my position on bees.