Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols
By Mike Aquilina
This review is my first with The Catholic Company, and what a pleasure this is for me! To begin with, this was not the book of my first choice, but a blessing all the same as you will see here in my review.
In nearly every crevice of our world, catacombs, caves, pottery, architecture, books, jewelry, and ruins, there are signs and symbols made lovingly, and many times boldly, by ancients for the purpose of teaching, spreading the Word, and preaching about our God and His wondrous ways. These symbols reveal a language of love that with time has become lost and forgotten. As Mr. Aquilina discusses in his introduction, “Love in the ruins” these signs are all around us, but without knowledge of their meaning as Dr. Loosley, an English doctoral researcher learned during her time in Syria, man grows “disenchanted with both the land and their religion.” She began to take her research a different direction as she wrote, “These men were alienated from the Church through ignorance and needed to be educated about their past.” As the people in Syria began to learn more about these signs and symbols of their past Christian ancestors, they began to become reconnected with the past and the Church, their faith was restored and they went back to Church with a renewed vigor. This is Mike’s desire as he put this book together for us.
Included here are 25 signs and symbols of the Christian faith explained in enough detail to make it clear of the etiology of their origins. One of my favorites, though there are many more now after reading this book, is the Orant. The Orant is a robed figure, almost always female and usually veiled holding her hands upraised in praise. As I read this chapter, I began to wish I could get away with celebrating the entire Mass in this posture.
There are many symbols that I was not aware of and others that I knew, but learned of their deeper meanings. What does the Peacock and the Phoenix have in common? Besides being birds, they represent the resurrection. Others that surprised me were: milk, dolphins and the controversy surrounding the symbol of the cross. This book has piqued my appetite for more research about the signs and symbols of our Christian faith and the struggles and bravery of those who fought for our Church in ancient times.
Truly, this book is a treasure trove for any and all families for their home catechesis. I highly recommend this book and am very thankful that we have such wonderful Catholic writers like Mike Aquilina that are willing and able to work so hard to keep spreading the faith.