Monday, March 1, 2010

Lessons in Iconography: The Pelican

In Christian art, the pelican represents Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the Cross for our redemption. This traditional attribution stems from the belief that a female pelican will strike her breast with her beak, drawing blood to feed her young. Like the pelican, Christ shed His blood on the Cross for our redemption, and Christ offers Himself to us in the sacrifice of the Eucharist to nourish and strengthen us spiritually.

A verse from the Adoro Te Devote, a Eucharistic hymn penned by St. Thomas Aquinas, refers to Christ in the guise of this symbol:

Pelican of mercy, Jesus, Lord and God,

Cleanse me, wretched sinner, in Thy Precious Blood:

Blood where one drop for human-kind outpoured

Might from all transgression have the world restored.

As we draw near to the celebration of Christ’s death on the Cross on Good Friday, let us ask the “Pelican of Mercy” to nourish and strengthen us through His sacrifice.

Rachel Ross

Curator of Art