SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE EUCHARIST
A symbol is a sign for something else. Like the Golden Arches which stand for McDonalds. Sometimes symbols are used to tell something to people who know what the symbol means, like a signal that a football player uses to let his teammates know where he will kick the ball.
Most schools today have a specific emblem like a school badge or uniform by which they are easily identified, and the pupils of these schools can readily recognise each other when in uniform. Similarly, most businesses are recognised by their logo which they use in their ads and products.
For the first Christians, the Roman Empire, was a very dangerous place to be. The main sign of the followers of Christ was the cross by which they recognised each other. To be seen wearing it meant imprisonment or being fed to the lions. This was because the Roman Emperors were totally opposed to the followers and teachings of Christ as they wrongly believed that the Christians wanted to take their earthly power. They simply could not understand that Christ’s kingdom was a heavenly Kingdom where His followers could live in total happiness with Him forever if they followed His plan for them. So in order to destroy the teachings of Christ and His followers, they decided to kill off the Christians, believing that all knowledge of Christ would fade away and die.
The Romans told lies about the first Christians. They were persecuted, hunted down and tortured. In order to cope with this, the Christians lived in underground places called the Catacombs which are still in existence today.
It was there that they learned about God and celebrated Holy Mass. They also buried their dead and many of the early martyrs, like Saint Tarcisius and a number of martyred Popes, were buried there. Here also, they learned the scriptures, including the stories of Jesus and all the wonderful miracles He performed.
Central to the lives of these Christians was the Eucharist. This we know by the symbols used to decorate their tombs. These make us aware of the immense value they placed on the celebration of the Eucharist as Christ Himself had taught them.
What do we know about the symbols used and why they are so prevalent in the Catacombs? Indeed, they have left behind a rich record of the lives and hardships endured by those who preceded us in the family of Christ.