Thursday, September 13, 2007

SYMBOLIC SATURDAY - THE FAB FOUR

Their faces were like this: each of the four had the face of a man, but on the right side was the face of a lion, and on the left side the face of an ox, and finally each had the face of an eagle.” Ezekiel 1:10.

These creatures that were being described by Ezekiel were the cherubim around God’s throne, but the faces attributed to them are considered a prediction of the four evangelists.

The four writers of the Gospels are often represented by these four fantastic creatures. St. John is often seen with or is represented by the eagle, Saint Luke the bull or ox, Saint Matthew the young man, and Saint Mark the lion. All four creatures should appear winged as reported in Ezekiel making the ox and the lion absolutely distinguishable in art. The young man and the eagle will need other contextual clues to assist you in interpreting them. All four most often appear with halos.

Saint John’s theology/Christology is often said to be “high,” his lofty thoughts soaring as high as the heavens. For this reason he is associated with the eagle that boldly, strongly, and with keen eyesight soars our skies.

Saint Luke’s Gospel tends to focus on the sacrificial aspect of Jesus’ life. As the ox was often an animal chosen to be sacrificially offered up to God it became associated with this Gospel writer.

At the beginning of Saint Matthew’s Gospel we have Jesus’ genealogy, which firmly plants the man Jesus among us. As he tends to highlight the humanity of the man/God, this Gospel writer is often represented by the symbol of the winged young man.

Much of our symbolism comes from ancient mythology. Though we know many of the stories to be largely fanciful, they did help the ancients understand the world around them and have to some extent played a valuable role in the symbolic language of the Church.

Once it was thought that lion cubs were born dead and three days later the lion that sired them would come and give them a mighty roar, which would bring them to life. This becomes a ready sign of the Resurrection upon which Saint Mark focuses his Gospel. Hence the winged lion is associated with Saint Mark.

These creatures may either appear on their own or with the evangelist that they symbolize. When they appear together the evangelists usually have a witting utensil and either a book, scroll, or paper upon which they write their Gospel.

Next week we will start on ecclesial heraldry.

5 comments:

Jeffrey Smith said...

A dose of the truth

Rob said...

Father,

Where did you get your information on which creature represented which evangelist? I could have sworn the designations were different, then, when I went to consult my "sources", I realized I had none! :)

Adoro te Devote said...

Ok, Jeffrey, I'll bite.

You're a LOT more intelligent than that and none of us believes even for a MOMENT that you've bought into that website. So you've lost out there on the shock value you were going for.

Wow. That's gotta be the worst atheist site I've ever seen. Even Sattvicwarrior has more logical arguments than those presented by whatever 14 year old created the website you presented there. Never mind the title and URL, which calls itself "pagan" but in reality pagans believe in god or gods, just not the Christian god (unless part of a pantheon), and of course the website says very clearly that there is no God. Thus it is not pagan.

Atheists know who they are. Pagans know who they are. Christians and agnostics know who they are. YOU know who YOU are and your motives.

Jeffrey, sincerely, we're all praying for you. But do away with the juvenile tactics and even more juvenile web sites. Whether you believe in God or not is moot...your abilities and knowledge as a scholar (even amateur) are better than that. Please.

If you're going to take up another position, at least give yourself the dignity of following logical concepts, even if they're wrong.

Adoro te Devote said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fr. V said...

Rob,

I have a number of books on it but if you want something more readily at hand I looked it up this morning on Wickapedia (and we know if THEY say it it is true . . .) But here you go.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Evangelists

Jeff - dude - there must be a ton more hurt going on there than I even realized. You know you have the support of us. It is hard to know what we should do as your hurt is very veiled with hazy hints that the Church or Rome or something has effected you directly and very personally. What's up? With what are we dealing? Don't become what you hate - we're here (even if we are church) for you. I have ten o'clock mass this morning - I'll remember you in my intentions.

Adoro I agree with on this - you are FAR too intellegent and sophisticated for that site. It is a case of burn the other's house down to make yours look good instead of just fixing up your own house.