View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Jesus, Our Pelican

This morning I came across the hymn "Hidden God" ("Adoro te devote" ) by St. Thomas Aquinas. It contained the following verse:

Deign, O Jesus, Pelican of heaven,
Me, a sinner, in your Blood to lave,

Pelican of heaven? Now I vaguely remembered some legend concerning the pelican that linked it to Jesus, but I wasn't sure. So I looked it up.

Pelican: The Pelican is a symbol of the atonement and the Redeemer and is often found in Christian murals, frescos, paintings and stained glass. The pelican was believed to wound itself in order to feed its young with its own blood. In the hymn "Adoro Te," St. Thomas Aquinas addresses the Savior with, "Pelican of Mercy, cleanse me in Thy Precious Blood." (NOTE: A slightly different translation of the verse than the one I encountered.) Allusion is even made to this belief in "Hamlet" (act iv): "To his good friend thus wide I'll ope my arms And, like the kind, life-rendering pelican, Repast them with my blood."

And from another source:

According to legend, in a time of famine a mother pelican would draw blood from her own chest and give the blood to her chicks.

Thus the pelican symbol in Christianity, also called pelican-in-her-piety, symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (because he gave his blood for others) as well as the Eucharist (because it represents Christ's blood and provides spiritual nourishment).

Aha. You learn something new every day.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your research. I love the care for words and images that is so obvious in our church's hymns!

5:58 PM  
Blogger In the choir loft said...

Lee -- All Jesuits had to pray the Adoro Te after Mass as part of their prayer life. BTW..did you ever get that generator moved?

All the best and oremus pro invicem!

9:26 PM  
Blogger sfomo said...

The pelican is depicted on the front of the altar at St. Thomas the Apostle's Adoration Chapel. What will happen to it when the parish closes?

7:41 AM  
Anonymous Pelican Products said...

I was never truly familiar with the depiction of Christ as a pelican, but I have heard much about the connection between the Phoenix and the Pelican. They say both are a representation of the the Christ and and that it has a lot to do with the story of both the resurrection of Jesus and the story of the Phoenix's resurrection.

10:36 AM  

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