The Fish


Perhaps the most popular emblem for the first Christians was the sign of the FISH.  Because they had to worship in secret, the Sign of the Fish, like the Sign of the Cross, is to be found in Christian art, seals, rings, and on the tombs, vaults and walls of the Catacombs.  Why was this Sign of the Fish so frequently used?  It was significant because, the letters for the Greek word for FISH were discovered to contain an acronym (that is where the letters of a word or the initial letters of a group of words can be used to form another word), for the Name of Jesus and Who He was.  The Greek word ICHTHYS stood for JESUS CHRIST SON OF GOD SAVIOUR.

This was a very clever use of one sign.  Fishing was the occupation of many families of the time and St. Peter and many of the Apostles were fishermen by trade.  It should come as no surprise then, that the fish was used in the great miracle of the loaves and two fish when Jesus multiplied them to feed 5,000 people (Mt 14:17, Lk 9:13).  Later, Jesus fed 4,000 people with only seven loaves and a few fish (Mt 15:34). After His Death, a disheartened Peter and the other fishermen had returned to their fishing careers. A few days later, they came in with their boats and had caught no fish. A voice from the shore suggested they go out casting their nets to starboard and, although they thought it was crazy, they went. Their catch was so big that their nets were almost breaking. Then they noticed the man who had told them to go back to the lake to try once again.  He was on the shore roasting fish and called them over for something to eat, and John, the beloved disciple cried out: “It is the Lord.”  Yes, He had risen from the dead, and He was preparing them to be fishers, not of fish, but of men for the Kingdom: to save souls from the turbulence and dangers of the stormy waters of life and lead them into the calm of His peace.

The wearing or use of the Cross was, as has already been explained, too dangerous: it was a clear giveaway, so it was the clever use of the sign of the fish helped the Christians to distinguish one another from those hostile to them.

There were other symbols that Christians used and that are associated with Christ and the Eucharist.  We are quite familiar with some as they are as commonly used today as they had been back in the early days of Christianity.

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