The fish

A very favourite symbol or figure with the early Christians was the fish;and this, it would seem, was of use in more ways than one ; for the sign was a kind of freemasonry, by means of which one Christian could distinguish another, in a manner unintelligible to the enemies of the faith. It seems certain that little bone or wooden fishes were made and set aside for that purpose by the early Church. The signification of this emblem is not at first apparent, save, indeed, that Jonah’s fish shadowed forth the resurrection; but it is found that the letters composing the Greek ixtus, a fish, are the initials to the words /Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour. Thus the sign of the fish was sacred to Christ, and was even used at times in place of the universal monogram at the beginning and ending of inscriptions.

The palm branch

The palm-branch, emblem of victory, always a favorite symbol among the early disciples of Christ, was a sign allotted exclusively—so it appears—to those who had suffered as martyrs for the faith ; a custom aking it’s rise probably from the vision of St. John in the Apocalypse : “I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” “These,” said the elder, “are they who came out of great tribulation.”

The dove on the cross

The dove on the cross is a very expressive token, and bears with it a touching significance to weary, wayworn man, that where the cross (or suffering) is set up, and holds a place, there will the dove, indicative of the great Comforter, come with its healing wings. Or, on the contrary, it may be held to show

forth that where the Holy Spirit deigns to fix His seat and make known His influence, there surely will be found the cross, tribulation, and suffering. Wandering, wayward man might wish it otherwise ; but so it is, and ever must be, until this transitory season of trial gives way to the clear shining of God’s face.

The orante

in the Calixtine catacombs is possible to encounter the symbols that represents a woman engaged in prayer, in an attitude which, from its constant repetition on the walls, may be taken to indicate the posture usually assumed in that act of devotion, the eyes looking to heaven and the hands outstretched.