Yesterday I posted about the new pelican photo I am using as a blog header and I fished around for some grandiose significance for it.
I woke up today with an odd impulse to go online and learn something about pelicans. What I found leaves me a bit stunned, given that I write here about the Christian life. I discover that pelicans have a long and honored history as a symbol of Jesus Christ sacrificing himself for us. (Another information gap in my Protestant upbringing.)
In the ecclesiastical embroidery above you see a mother pelican pecking her own breast, drawing blood to feed her chicks. In medieval times it was believed they did this to care for their young and the symbol was widely used in churches and as a heraldic symbol of the Christian faith.
The image (with chalice and host in front) adorns the altar of St. Mary’s chapel at the Old Ursuline Convent in New Orleans:
The first edition of the King James Bible carried this pelican image on the title page. Queen Elizabeth I adopted the symbol to mark her position as “mother of the Church of England.”
Apparently I have stumbled onto a treasured symbol honored by several centuries of saints before me. Stumbled and humbled.