The Good Shepherd
One of the most popular symbols is the "Good Shepherd".
A symbol of Christ's care for his sheep.
"I am the Good Shepherd" John 10:11
He sometimes carries the sheep over his shoulder occasionally
it is by his side.
Below is an example of the Good Shepherd image in the Priscilla Catacombs, Rome.
The symbol of the Good Shepherd is used the most frequently in the catacomb art work.
It is inspired by the parable of the lost sheep.
Christ is thus represented as a humble shepherd with a lamb.
The Descending Dove
Represents the Holy Ghost. The sign of the descending dove was a prearranged sign by which John the Baptist would recognized the Messiah.
All four Gospels each record an account of the sign of the dove.
Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, and John 1:32. and Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.
Also note the use of the image of the "Fleur-De-Lis", the three leafed lily representing the Virgin Mary.
The Episcopal Church believes in two sacraments, one being Baptism which this picture symbolizes by the image of the baptismal font.
See the Book of Common Prayer pages 857-858.
Note the Trefoil symbol on the top of the front of the picture of the baptismal font, it is a common symbol of the trinity. On the bottom is the Trefoil Arch.
The Eucharist or Holy Communion
The second sacrament is the Eucharist which is represented here by the chalice.
Note the gold band that has the fish image within it, the Fleur-De-Lis on the bottom of the bowl of the chalice, and the Cross Patèe image on the bottom of the chalice.
Saint Matthew / The Winged Man
The winged creatures representing the four Evangelists date from the 5th century.
Matthew is portrayed as the Winged Man or Divine Man.
The beginning of this Gospel illustrates the humanity of Jesus through his list of ancestors (Matthew 1:1-17). Click here to see another
Saint Mark / The Winged Lion
The royal dignity of our Lord is shown in St. Mark's writings and the lion as king of the beasts is an appropriate symbol. St. Mark also dwells upon the resurrection and the lion was a early figure of the resurrection.
Saint Luke / The Winged Ox
As St. Like's Gospel is full of the sacrifice, priesthood, and atonement of the Savior, the ox, as the animal of sacrifice, is most fitting as a symbolic figure of the Redeemer. Click here to see another
Saint John / The Eagle
The eagle flying higher than any other bird is the emblem for St. John because in his Gospel he ascends by the power of the spirit.
In brief the four symbolic figures show:
Humanity, Royalty, Sacrifice, and Divinity.
Each image uses a "Nimbus", a luminous cloud or halo surrounding the head, emblematic of divine power. Click here to see another
The "Fleur-De-Lis", the three leafed lily represents the flower of the Virgin Mary and symbolizes the Annunciation of the Lord.
It is seen here as the green leaves that separate the white flowers.
The Rose has been used since the 13th century as a Christian symbol.
Among its many meanings: Messianie Promise, Heavenly Bliss, and the Virgin (white).
Flowers are seen in many of the stained glass windows of the Good Shepherd as background designs.
The Quatrefoil is seen in the blue strips alone the sides of the image below and general represents the four evangelists.
The Chi-Rho is a combination of the Greek letter chi (X) and rho (P), which are the first two letters of the Greek word for “Christ,” and so when put together represent “Jesus.”
The Chi-Rho symbol pictured below is from the catacombs of San Callisto, Rome 4th century.
The Anchor Cross
The left hand panel of the back window or what used to be the front windows depicts the anchor cross. It symbolizes hope, in Hebrews 6:19, St Paul speaks of hope as "an anchor of the soul", hence the origin.
The Latin cross with the crown of thorns.
The right hand panel.
Probably no two symbols speak to Christianity more than these two images.
Yes, even the light fixtures have meaning.
The Quatrefoil is seen here around the bottom, usually depicting the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
In the center is the Trefoil Arch, representing the Holy Trinity.
The "Fleur-De-Lis", the three leafed lily representing the Virgin Mary, is seen around the top. Click here to see another
Scutum Fidei / Shield of the Trinity
Now on display in the back of the church and used as the backdrop of the small alter, this beautiful window was once over the entrance of the church (see below). This Christian symbol expresses the aspects of the Holy Trinity, summarizing the first part of the Athanasian Creed.
Scutum Fidei / Shield of the Trinity
The following set of propositions taken from the Athanasian Creed
1) The Father is God
2) The Son is God
3) The Holy Spirit is God
4) There are not three Gods but one God
These propositions are often pictorially represented in church windows
and the theology is explained by this diagram.
The Shield of the Trinity window can be seen here in its original location which was over the left entrance
door of the Church
The Processional Cross has the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in it's four corners.
The IHS is a sacred monogram.
It consists of the first three letters or the first two and last, of the Greek word for Jesus ( IHΣΟΥΣ ).
It has "Chi-Rho" symbol on the bottom leg of the cross, see defination above.
It is also a "Budded Cross", with the arms ending in a Trefoil design that suggests the Holy Trinity.
The White Lily
The White Lily representing the Virgin Mary, is depicted in this beautiful window.
Spire or Steeple
A single spire pointing upward like a finger, it is a silent witness to our faith in the One True God.
Have you looked up lately?
Both the steeple and the peaked roof have Budded Crosses on top. Each arm of the budded cross ends in a Trefoil design and suggests the Holy Trinity. The center circle is emblematic of eternity and suggests the eternal quality of the Redemption. Just below the peaked roof cross is a Trefoil design again and below it three Quatrefoil designs that are suggestive of the four evangelists.
One of the most familiar of the monograms, is the IHS. representing a Greek abbreviation for Jesus. It is featured in the center of the window below.
Here is the similar symbol in the catacombs.
(where is this window found in the Church ?)
Three steps separate the "Nave" from the "Chancel" The three steps are symbolic of the Trinity. Note the Trefoil & the Trefoil Arch in the woodwork.
S.P. Sanctus Pater (Holy Father)
S.F. Sanctus Filus (Holy Son)
S.S. Sanctus Spirtus (Holy Spirit)
"Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit, Three in One,
Glory as of old to thee, now and evermore shall be."
The shield was adopted by the General Convention of 1940 and is rich in symbolism. The red cross on a white field is the St. George Cross, an indicator of our link to the Church of England, the mother church of the Anglican Communion. The miniature crosses in the blue quadrant symbolize the nine original American Dioceses that met in Philadelphia in 1789 to adopt the constitution of the Protestant
Episcopal Church in the United States of America. They are: Connecticut (established in 1783), Maryland (1783), Massachusetts (1784), Pennsylvania (1784), New Jersey (1785), New York (1785), South Carolina (1785), Virginia (1785), and Delaware (1786).
The blue field in the upper left is the color traditionally associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary and is symbolic of Jesus’ human nature, which he received from his mother.
The outline of the miniature crosses is in the form of St. Andrew’s Cross in tribute to the Scottish church’s role in ordaining the first American Bishop, Samuel Seabury, in 1784.
The colors red, white and blue symbolize, respectively, (Red) the sacrifice of Christ and Christian martyrs,(White) the purity of the Christian faith, and (Blue) the humanity of Christ received from the Virgin Mary.
In duplicating the colors of the American flag, they also represent the Episcopal Church’s standing as the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion.
The Star of Bethlehem, the great symbol of the Epiphany, when Christ was manifested to the Gentiles by the guiding of the Star.
"Fairer than the sun at morning'
Was the star that told his birth"
Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, 384-413
The Greek Cross
The Greek Cross has arms of an equal length, no doubt developed by the artistic Greeks as being of more perfect form. It lends itself more readily to ornamentation than the Latin Cross. If surrounded by a circle or a Nimbus it is known as the Nimbed Cross.
It is said that the Latin Cross speaks of the death of Christ, and the Greek Cross speaks to the Christian religion.
Like the Trefoil design, also seen here between the arches, the Trefoil Arch is a commonly used Christian symbol of the Holy Trinity and used frequently in Christian architecture.
Also note the Fleur-De-Lis designs across the top.
The Seasons of the Church & Colors
The chart below explains the seasons of the Church and how
color is used to symbolism those seasons.
The straight passageway which runs from end to end is generally called "center aisle". Sometimes people wonder why this area is left scrupulously open, after all it's the best seating in the house.
This is done for a very important symbolic purpose. The altar is always at the end representative of God's spiritual presence. The font in the rear near the entrance, indicating that by baptism one gains admission into Christian life.
Rev. Irwin St. John Tucker points out that center aisle is a parable of the way of life:
"Reaching from birth to the throne of God,
From font to altar."
Wilson, Frank E. An Outline of Christian Symbolism. Morehouse-Gorham, 1957
Ferguson, George. Signs & Symbols in Christian Art. Oxford Univ. Pr., 1966.
Griffith, Helen Stuart. The Sign Language of Our Faith: Learning to Read the Message of Christian Symbols. Eerdmans, 1966.
Wood, Katharine Marie. The Twelve Apostles. Kenedy, 1956.