Christian Symbols


Chalices with roses appear on the terra cotta ornamentation of the church’s exterior walls. The word chalice comes from the Latin word calix, meaning cup. The Chalice is symbolic of Holy Communion and the forgiveness of sin, and points to the centrality of Our Lord’s Last Supper, symbolized by a chalice of wine with the bread rising above it.

The rose, in Christian tradition, has many meanings. The red rose is associated with Our Lord’s Precious Blood, and subsequently is a symbol of martyrdom. In Christian art, the rose also is associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The In Isaiah 40:31, it is written, "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."

Embellishing the exterior of the church are eagles, which represent renewal. Because the eagle soars upward, it is also symbolic of both the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. By extension, the eagle symbolizes baptized Christians, who have symbolically died and risen with Christ.

When depicted with a halo (as in the image), the eagle is the symbol of John the Evangelist and the Gospel of Saint John because of the soaring spirituality of John’s writing, which is more theological in nature than the other three gospels.

An angel is a pure spirit created by God. In the Old Testament, the name was applied to certain spiritual beings or intelligences of heavenly residence, employed by God as the ministers of His will. The English word, angel, comes from the Greek angelos, which means messenger. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for angel is malak, also meaning messenger.

Saint Pascal Church boasts an abundance of angels in its ornamentation. The angels beneath the cross in the exterior front entry cove are rendered in a stream-lined, rectilinear Art Deco style, repeated in the design of the angels on the exteriors of the transept windows. In the interior of the church, angels adorn the back wall of the apse, are perched atop the pillars at the front of the apse, and provide support beneath the ends of the ceiling’s crossbeams. There are three angels on every hanging light in the nave.

The lion represent resurrection, in addition to the royal dignity and power of Christ. Jesus was a descendant of the principal tribe of Israel, the tribe of Judah, and the King to whom rightly belongs the blessing of Jacob. In Genesis, 49:9-11, it is written, "A lion’s whelp is Judah; from the prey you have gone up, my son. He crouches and couches as a lion; as a lioness, and who will disturb him? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs. To him shall be the obedience of nations.”

 Additionally, the lion is the symbol of Saint Mark and the Gospel of Saint Mark, which resonates with allusions to the lion. In medieval bestiaries, it was reported that lion cubs were born dead, and that after three days, the cubs are brought back to life, either by the breath of the lioness, the breath of the lion (the father), or by the roar of the lion. Consequently, the lion is associated with the Resurrection.

A stylized representation of the lily, the fleur-de-lis signifies purity, and in turn the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is an old tradition that the lily sprang from the repentant tears of Eve as she went forth from paradise. Mary can be seen as the New Eve, the Mother of Life, who bore the fruit that redeemed us from sin. Composed of three petals and three sepals, the fleur-de-lis also connotes the Trinity.

The symbol of the Peacock appears in early Christian art, often as decoration on tombs and on the walls of catacombs. Peacocks represented immortality, legend professing that the flesh of the peacock did not decay, hence its association with the Resurrection of Christ. The peacock naturally replaces his feathers annually; as such, the peacock is a symbol of renewal. Additionally, peacocks prey on snakes, and were referred to as slayers of serpents. Lastly, the multitude of “eyes” on the peacock’s fan tail suggests the all-seeing eyes of God. At Saint Pascal Church, peacocks appear on the exterior window gratings and in the terra cotta above the entrances.

The lamb represents innocence, gentleness, patience, and humility, and is the symbol of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, in his sacrificial role as the paschal lamb. Many scriptural passages give authority to this symbolism, particularly John 1:29, which recounts the meeting of John the Baptist and Jesus: "The next day John saw Jesus coming to him, and he said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’"

Mother pelicans, in the centers of the transept windows, are depicted in accordance with ancient folklore, pricking their breasts to feed their young with their blood. Consequently, the mother pelican represents Christ’s sacrificial love for humanity. The Pelican is a symbol of charity and the Holy Eucharist.

Owls were archetypes of wisdom in the Greco-Roman tradition but, as Christian symbols, are interpreted differently—according to the twelfth century Aberdeen Bestiary, "In a mystic sense, the night-owl signifies Christ. Christ loves the darkness of night because he does not want sinners— who are represented by darkness—to die but to be converted and live...In a moral sense, moreover, the night-owl signifies to us not just any righteous man, but rather one who lives among other men yet hides from their view as much as possible."

The Seal of George Cardinal Mundelein, with the motto, “Dominus Adjutor Meus,” Latin for “The Lord is My Help,” appears above the side doors around the corners from the main entrance. George Cardinal Mundelein was Archbishop of Chicago when the current Saint Pascal Church was built in 1930.

Carved into each capital of the columns that flank the main entrance of the Saint Pascal Church is the Franciscan Coat of Arms, reminding us that Saint Pascal Baylon was a Franciscan. The seal depicts two arms crossed against the background of a simple cross. The right unclothed arm of Christ passes over the left arm of Saint Francis, which is clothed in a sleeve. Above the coat of arms are two words associated with the Benedictine Order, Ora and Labora, Latin for Pray and Work. Saint Benedict viewed prayer and work as partners, and believed in combining contemplation with action. The phrase expresses the need to balance prayer and work.

Bas-reliefs of Saint Paul and eleven of the apostles appear on the façade of the church. The saints can be identified by the symbols used in the depictions On the east side, from left to right, are: Saint Simon (a saw), Saint Bartholomew (a knife), Saint James the Lesser (a fuller’s club and book), Saint John (a chalice), Saint Andrew (a saltire), Saint Peter (a book and the Key to Heaven). On the west side, from left to right, are: Saint Paul (a sword, book, long beard), Saint James the Greater (a pilgrim’s staff and a scallop shell), Saint Matthew (a scroll), Saint Philip (a cross), Saint Jude (an axe and book), Saint Thomas (his fingers touching his side and a spear).