Around our Church many symbols with varied meanings can be found, including the large mosaic at the front, statues, and artwork. This page takes you on a tour of these symbols, explaining their meaning and relevance to Christianity.
The large mosaic at the front of our Church houses a myriad of important early Christian symbols. Early Christianity has a range of symbols expressing faith. Clement of Alexandria, a second-century Christian philosopher and teacher, identified the dove, fish, lyre, ship and anchor as images suitable to the message of Christianity.
Alpha and Omega
One of the most vivid images on our mosaic are the symbols “A” and “Ω” meaning alpha and omega. Judaism contains similar symbology, using the Hebrew aleph and thaw, but Christianity has adapted to using Greek letters. These represent the eternal nature of God and Jesus Christ, showing that God existed long before mankind came to know Him and that God will continue to exist for all time. The term “alpha and omega” are explicitly referred to three times in the Book of Revelations, 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
It is referred to a second time, “He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” Rev 21:6. Finally, there is an explicit reference to the eternal nature of God: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Rev 22:13. These statements are extremely important to Christianity not only because they represent this eternal nature, but also because they show Jesus and the Holy Spirit have always been one and present with God.
This refers to “☧” or the part of the mosaic that resembles the letter P superimposed on the Cross, as seen in the image above. In Greek, the spelling of Christ is “Χριστός”. The Chi Rho cross uses the first two letters of the Greek spelling of Christ and superimposes them on the Cross. In this case, chi = ch = X and rho = r = ρ . In pagan symbolism, this mark was used by Greek scholars to signify a particularly important passage, taking the colloquial meaning of “good.” The Chi Rho Cross is not a Cross in the traditional sense, but it does symbolise the crucifixion of Jesus and his status as Christ. After dreaming of the symbol, Constantine I used it on the shields of his soldiers. The extended use of the symbol caused it to become an official imperial insignia. Modern versions of the Chi Rho Cross tend to accompany the alpha and omega symbols.
Sword of St. Michael
St Michael the Archangel is often represented in art as wielding his sword, either behind his shield or into a demon. In our Church mosaic the sword of St. Michael is being wielded into a serpent. An angelic warrior, St Michael’s heavenly sword is a representation of the power of God and the archangels against the fallen angels. For more information on our patron Saint, refer to the page linked above.
Five wounds of Christ
Around the large Cross on the mosaic are five smaller, yellow ones. These represent the five wounds of Christ, and form an important part of the Easter Vigil Ceremony. In fact, the Paschal Candle represents, with the exception of St Michael’s sword, all the symbols present in our church mosaic. Lit during the Easter Vigil ceremony, the candle shows the cross as the most central symbol, along with the alpha and omega. The current year is printed on the candle, and surrounding the Cross, as on our mosaic, are five grains of incense placed during Easter Vigil ceremony. For more information on Easter meanings and symbol see our Easter page.
Like the Paschal candle, the mosaic represents these five grains of incense as five Crosses. These represent the five wounds of Christ from his Passion. The meaning behind these five Crosses stems from the Crusader’s Cross, otherwise known as the Jerusalem Cross. This is one large Cross surrounded by four smaller Crosses, which were originally said to represent the four Gospels or the four directions in which the Word of Christ spread after Christ’s Resurrection. All five Crosses together represent the wounds of Christ. Originally, this logo was used for the Kingdom of Jerusalem, existing for two hundred years after the First Crusade, and is also the logo for Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, and later, the Franciscan order’s Custody of the Holy Land.
Statues and artwork around our Church
Our Lady of Fatima
In 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children at Fátima in Portugal. Referred to as Our Lady of Fátima or sometimes Our Lady of the Rosary, this statue was made in the Divine image of Our Lady. The statue was created according to the instruction of Lucia, one of the witnesses of the Virgin Mary’s apparitions. It is said that the Virgin Mary visited Lucia many times, often stressing the importance for all Catholics to play for the conversion of sinners.
As with most visitations by the Virgin Mary, this does not mean a strict religious conversion but rather a general repentance of sin and a promise to change one’s life for the better, using the teachings of Jesus Christ. The shepherd children said sinners were not non-Catholics, but people who had fallen from the Church and indulged in sinful activity. During the apparitions to the children, the Virgin Mary revealed three secrets, the first, a vision of Hell, secondly, a means by which to avoid this fate, and lastly, a controversial secret of the death of the Pope. The Virgin Mary also stressed the importance of daily prayer, calling it a way to achieve inner and world peace.
The Divine Mercy is a devotion focusing on the mercy of God’s power. In it, we entrust ourselves to God. The Divine Mercy devotion can be prayed at any time but it asked that we especially pray it for 9 days starting on Good Friday and ending with the Octave of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. The Divine Mercy was given to St Faustina as a way to help sinners repent and turn away from sin. St Faustina says that in her visions of Jesus, He asked her to commission the famous image with the words Jezu Ufam Tobie underneath, literally translating to “Jesus, I Trust In You.” So important is the Divine Mercy that even the Anglican Church follows their own adapted version of the Chaplet. The Chaplet can be recited as follows, using the Rosary:
1. Begin with the Sign of the Cross, 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary and The Apostles Creed.
2. Then on the Our Father Beads say the following: Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
3. On the 10 Hail Mary Beads pray: For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
(Repeat steps 2 and 3 for all five decades).
4. Conclude with (three times): Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Kingdom of Mary and Immaculate Heart of Mary
This statue is known as the Kingdom of Mary. She is shown with outstretched hands towards her people, stepping on a serpent.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary represents her joys and sorrows, her virtues and hidden perfections, and, above all, her virginal love for her God, her maternal love for her Son, Jesus, and her compassionate love for all people. The Gospel of John mentions Mary’s heart when she is at the foot of the Cross during Jesus’ crucifixion. St Augustine further explains Mary was not passive at this time, was praying for our redemption. This statue in our Church is in memory of Francis Russell.
Commonly, her heart is pierced with seven swords to represent her seven sorrows:
1. The Prophecy of Simeon over the Infant Jesus. (Luke 2:34)
2. The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family. (Matthew 2:13)
3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days. (Luke 2:43)
4. The Meeting of Jesus and Mary along the Way of the Cross. (Luke 23:26)
5. The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross. (John 19:25)
6. The Descent from the Cross, where Mary receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms. (Matthew 27:57)
7. The Burial of Jesus. (John 19:40)
In Marian devotions to this image, seven hail Marys are said daily. In further apparations, the Blessed Virgin Mary asked that in reparation for the sins committed against her Immaculate Heart, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months we go to Confession (within 8 days), receive Holy Communion, recite the full Rosary, and keep her company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary.
Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is one of the more famous religious devotions to Jesus’ physical heart. It represents His divine love for Humanity, and spans many Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, Anglo Catholic and Lutheran Churches. The image is derived from Marguerite Marie Alacoque, a French Roman Catholic nun, who learned of the image from her visions of Jesus. Often the image depicts Jesus’ heart pieced by a lance-wound, surrounded by a crown of thorns, bleeding. Sometimes the image shows Jesus pointing to his heart, with wounded hands where he was nailed to the Cross. The fire in Jesus’ heart represents the transformative power of love. A feast devoted to this idea, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, has been in the Roman Catholic calendar sine 1856. It is celebrated 19 days after Pentecost, always falling on a Friday.
Appearing to St Margaret Mary, Jesus Christ promised the following blessings to people who practice the devotion of the Sacred Heart:
1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2. I will give peace in their families.
3. I will console them in all their troubles.
4. I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.
5. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.
9. I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.
10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart.
12. In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that my all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.
The statue on the left is in memory of Thomas Strafford, killed in action, given by his Mother.