Symbols in Christianity
Christianity has always incorporated symbols - that is, visual representations and signs - into its practice, as valuable expressions of truth. The depiction of an important element of the faith, by means of an animal or color, for instance, can be powerful and encouraging. What words cannot say, sometimes symbols can. While Christians are known for being people of faith, the religion has produced some of the most beautiful art in history. Whether they be carved on first-century tombs or tattooed on twenty-first century bodies, symbols matter in the Christian religion.
Christians believe that God created human senses - sight, touch, taste, sound, and smell. Of course faith is of utmost importance in Christianity, but the physical abilities God gave people aren't unimportant. It is helpful to understand that the Christian worldview doesn't teach that immaterial and the material are in competition with each other or opposed to each other. in fact, faith experiences can be supported by a sensory experience such as when the Apostle Paul laid hands on people when he prayed for them (Acts 19:4-6).
Colors as symbols in Christianity
In Christianity, color symbolism is primarily used in liturgical decorations (banners, vestments, etc.) and to a lesser degree in Christian art. Symbolic colors are rarely used in the Bible.
Black is symbolic of death, and is therefore the liturgical color for Good Friday. Black can also represent sin, which results in death.
Blue, the color of the sky, is symbolic of heaven. It may also be used to symbolize truth. Blue is gaining acceptance as a liturgical color for Advent.
Brown is the color of spiritual death and degradation.
Gray is the color of ash, so is sometimes used to represent repentance and may be used during Lent.
Green is the color of plant life, abundant in spring. It is used to represent the triumph of life over death. Green is the liturgical color for the Trinity season in some traditions, and may be used during Epiphany in others.
Purple is the color for penitence and mourning. It is also the color of royalty. Purple is the liturgical color for the seasons of Advent and Lent.
Red is the color of blood and therefore is the liturgical color for the commemoration of martyred saints. Red is used as the liturgical color for Pentecost, since it is the color of fire (e.g. above, right).
White is a symbol of purity, innocence and holiness. It is the liturgical color for the Christmas and Easter seasons. White is sometimes represented by silver.
As the color of light, yellow may be used to represent divinity. However, because yellow light is not pure white, it may also be used to symbolize corruption and degradation.References
- Carolle E. Whittenmore, ed., Symbols of the Church.
- W.E. Post, Saints, Signs, and Symbols.
- George Wells Ferguson, Signs & Symbols in Christian Art.
- Frederick Rest, Our Christian Symbols.