© 2000 Walter E. Gast
All rights reserved.

Copyright Information

The eagle has a rich symbolic history. An early legend held that the eagle would periodically renew its youth (or plumage or eyesight) by flying near the sun and then plunging into a lake or fountain. On this basis the eagle became a symbol for the Resurrection. Since the eagle soars upward, it also became a symbol for Christ's Ascension. Eagles also represent Christians who have been baptised into Christ, who have died and risen with Him. The eagle is also a symbol of St. John the Evangelist because of his "soaring" witness to Jesus' divine nature. (The symbols for the four Evangelists — the eagle, the winged lion, the winged man and the winged ox — are derived from Ezekiel's vision of four living creatures, although Ezekiel's description is most likely of cherubim.)

Isa. 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, They will walk and not be faint. (NIV)

Ezek. 1:10 Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. (NIV)

Ecce Agnus Dei
Latin for "Behold, the Lamb of God," this phrase was spoken by John the Baptist as he was baptizing on the other side of the Jordan. The phrase is used to mark the Epiphany ("manifestation") of Jesus as the Messiah.

John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel." (NIV)

Season: Epiphany

Ewer & Basin
The ewer and basin are used for cleansing, and so represent ritual purity. They call to mind two related biblical stories whose meanings are quite different. The first is Jesus' washing of His disciples' feet after the Last Supper. In this act He expressed the heart of servanthood that was to characterize His disciples. The second is that of Pontius Pilate washing his hands of Jesus and protesting innocence of His blood. Pilate missed the irony that Jesus died for the sins of everyone.

John 13:12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13 "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (NIV)

Matt. 27:24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" (NIV)

Season: Lent, esp. Holy Week

The "all-seeing eye" represents the all-knowing and ever-present God. During the late Renaissance, the eye was pictured in a triangle with rays of light to represent the infinite holiness of the Trinity.