5 & 6. Grapes & Wheat – The grapevine and the stalks of wheat appear in the round window over the door by the chancel, as well as the first window on the west side. Grapes and wheat symbolize the two elements of the Lord’s Supper or Communion, the wine/grape juice and bread, which in turn symbolize the blood and body of Christ, sacrificed for us.
Wine from Grapes represents God’s promises in blood, poured out in payment for humankind’s sin. In the days of Hebrew Scripture (the Old Testament), animals were sacrificed as a symbolic way of asking for forgiveness of sins and returning to a right relationship with God. Covenants or agreements were often sealed by shedding the blood of an animal, with the implication that the party who breaks the covenant will suffer a similar fate.
However, Jesus ended those practices and substituted his own blood as the ultimate sacrifice for all humankind. When he instituted the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant by my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:20) Believers partake of communion on a regular basis to remember Christ’s sacrifice and all that he has done for us in his life, death and resurrection. The Lord’s Supper is a time of self-examination and participation in the “body of Christ” or congregation of Christians.
Bread from Grain symbolizes life and the nourishment that sustains life. In the wilderness, God provided a daily, saving provision of manna, or “bread from heaven,” for the children of Israel to survive. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) Bread also represents the physical body of Christ. At the Last Supper, Jesus broke bread, gave it to his disciples and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
7. Fish – The curved body of this fish seems to imply a live fish out of water. It probably symbolizes Jesus’ command to Simon and Andrew, who were fishing with nets in the ocean, “Come, follow me, and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19) Jesus tells his disciples (and us) to bring people to him by telling them about God.
Although it does not resemble an Ichtus, the fish in the window could also symbolize the secret sign used by the early persecuted Christians to designate themselves as believers in Jesus. The initial letters of the Greek words for “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior” spell the Greek word for “fish”– ICHTHUS or IXTHUS: Jesus (IE), Christus (CH), Theos “of God” (TH) Huios “the Son” (HU) Soter “Savior” (S).
It is said that during the persecution of the early church, a Christian meeting someone new would draw a single arc in the sand. If the other person were a Christian, he or she would complete the drawing of a fish with a second arc. If the second person was not a Christian, the ambiguity of the half-symbol would not reveal the first person as a Christian.
Today, in places where Christians do not need to worry about persecution, the Christian fish symbol often has “Jesus” written inside or includes a cross symbol.
Triumphant Lamb – A lamb, which symbolizes purity and innocence, was a sacrificial animal for the Hebrew people, such as in the annual festival of the Passover. This ritual foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus for all people. When John the Baptist first saw Jesus, he said: “Look! The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) The lamb in United Church’s window is not being sacrificed; it is standing with a banner upon a cross, representing the risen Christ triumphant over death.
8. Ship with cross on sail – The ship symbolizes the church, and the red cross on a white sale symbolizes victory, hence this is a picture of the Church Triumphant, sailing unharmed through a “stormy sea.” Just as God protected the faithful in Noah’s ark and Jesus protected his faithful in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, so too will the faithful be protected during the storms of life.
Dove –Doves often symbolize peace, but the three yellow rays coming from the head of this dove identify it as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, a member of the Trinity (with God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son). The Holy Spirit, depicted as a dove, is often shown descending from the sky (or heaven) down to Christians, as it did upon Jesus during his baptism.
The Holy Spirit is God’s presence working in us as a result of our faith. A believer’s baptism symbolizes the Holy Spirit working in those who profess faith in Christ and want to be baptized. For those baptized as infants, a believer’s first public acceptance of the grace of God by faith is through the rite of confirmation. Therefore, a descending dove is a common symbol of both baptism and confirmation.
To see the East side symbols, click here.