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The Pelican symbol in Catholic Art

altar pelican refurbished
altar pelican symbol refurbished

Just before we closed business for Christmas in 2018, we were invited to St. Joseph's to set up the newly built stable and crib figures we had restored.

While David worked on the display, I worked on refurbishing the Eucharistic symbols of the sanctuary wall. Fr. Philip wanted to spruce them up so that he could better use them as a means to teach the children about the Eucharist.

In medieval times, it was thought that the Pelican preened feathers from her breast until it bled, so that she could feed her young with her own blood. She did this to ensure their survival. The source of this legend has been lost in time, yet it gave rise to the intriguing symbol we see in Catholic churches today.

The Pelican was adopted as a symbol of the Eucharist, because Christ states in the Gospel of John that he feeds the faithful with His own body and blood.

The lesson being, that fed on the Eucharist, those who believe in Him will be strengthened spiritually, and have the strength to fledge the nest (of this world) and soar heavenward, (to eternal life.)

Gospel of John 6: Vs 53-56. So Jesus said to them; Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and and drink his blood, you have no lie within you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.56 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (RSV Bible 2nd edition Ignatius Press.)

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