Thursday, August 23, 2012

Catholic Symbols and Icons

An icon is a work of art or or image, picture, or representation of an object which, for this post, is going to be associated with the Catholic Religion. Throughout history, various cultures have been inspired or supplemented by these images, whether in two dimensions or three.

In Christianity, the icon generally depicts a holy being or object such as Jesus, Mary, saints, angels, or the cross. Creating free-standing, three-dimensional sculptures of holy figures was resisted by Christians for many centuries, out of the belief that demons inhabited "pagan" sculptures.

Almost everything within the image has a symbolic aspect. Christ, the saints, and the angels all have halos, angels have wings because they are messengers, etc..  In addition to icons there are also Christograms which are monograms or a combination of letters that form an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ. Different types of Christograms are associated with the various traditions of Christianity; such as the IHS monogram referring to the Holy Name of Jesus or ΙϹΧϹ referring to Christ.

The most common Christogram became "IHS" or "IHC", denoting the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus, iota-eta-sigma.

The Greek letter iota is represented by I, and the eta by H, while the Greek letter sigma is represented by S. Because the Latin-alphabet letters I and J were not distinguished until the 17th century, "JHS" and "JHC" can be equivalent to "IHS" and "IHC".

"IHS" is sometimes interpreted as meaning Iesus Hominum Salvator ("Jesus, Savior of men" in Latin). These other interpretations are known as backronyms. English-language interpretations of "IHS" have included "I Have Suffered" or "In His Service".

INRI or I.N.R.I. a Latin acronym reading Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, which in English translates to "Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews", the Latin inscription over the cross of Christ on Calvary. The Greek version reads ΙΝΒΙ.

Most crucifixes with Jesus include a plaque or parchment placed above his head, called a titulus, bearing the Latin letters INRI, or it appears occasionally carved directly into the cross and usually just above the head of Jesus.

Among the early Christians icons, the fish seems to have been one of the most important. It consists of the initial letters of five Greek words forming the word for fish. According to tradition, ancient Christians used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish between friends and enemies.

Alpha and Omega  
These are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha (α or Α) and omega (ω or Ω). The term Alpha and Omega comes from the phrase  “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last" - Jesus. From the Book of Revelation (verses 1:8, 21:6, and 22:13).

The Staurogram (meaning monogram of the cross or Monogrammatic Cross) is composed by a tau (Τ) superimposed on a rho (Ρ). The Staurogram was first used to abbreviate the Greek word for cross in very early New Testament manuscripts.The tau refers to the cross, and the rho refers to the Greek word "help".

Chi Rho  
The Chi Rho is formed by superimposing the first two (capital) letters chi and rho (ΧΡ) of the Greek word "ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ" =Christ in such a way to produce the monogram.

IH Monogram
The initials of the name of Jesus in Greek, iota (Ι) and eta (Η), sometime superimposed one on the other, or their numeric value 18, was a well known and very early way to represent Christ.

IX Monogram
This early form of the "monogram" of Christ was formed by superimposing the first  letters of the Greek words for Jesus and Christ 
- iota Ι and chi Χ.

The rosary (from Latin rosarium, meaning "rose garden"or "garland of roses") is a Catholic devotion to prayer and is used to commemorate Jesus Christ and events of his life. The term "Rosary" is used to describe either a sequence of prayers or a string of prayer beads. The type of rosary and number of beads may vary between religious communities. Similar beads are used in other cultures; for example, the Greek use worry beads, which are used in a similar way, abut have no religious significance.

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