29 June 2015

The symbolism of the phoenix

On wall of the church at St Mary Magdaelene’s, behind the high altar, we have a wooden screen called a Reredos (REER-rar-DOSS). It is beautifully decorated with painted panels and carved statues.

On the top right of the reredos is a small square panel showing a phoenix being consumed by flames. In ancient times, the phoenix was believed to be a beautiful, multi-coloured bird that never died. Instead, when the time was right, it would build a nest and burst into flame. The new phoenix would then arise from the ashes.

Christians adopted the phoenix as a symbol of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is an image of renewal and a promise to us that the faithful also shall be renewed.

Photo by Stephanie Edwards

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
– St Paul (2 Cor 4:15-17)

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