Saturday, March 13, 2010

Peacocks in the Catacombs

Byzantine mosiac

I don’t know how many of you dear readers may follow the blog of Michael Spencer, aka, Internet Monk; I’ve been reading his writings for a few years now. His posts often kept me updated with the happenings in the evangelical world and frequently spurred my investigative nature. Above all, Michael’s love of God shone through everything he wrote. And so, I was saddened recently to learn that he is losing his battle with cancer.

Making my way down the comment list on his blog before leaving a few foolish words of my own, a poignant remark leapt out at me: may your death be beautiful

Indeed. Those who love God, who have finished the race well, should look toward the heavenlies with

joyful anticipation! I have known several people who have had beautiful deaths, giving testimony to the presence of angels, the light of heaven, even Christ Himself, when opening the door to eternity.

The peacock, a potent symbol in christianity, comes to mind when I think of a beautiful death ... as it was this bird in particular that graced the walls of ancient catacombs where saints were laid to rest. The peacock, in all its splendid array, adorns the doorway to paradise.

I have found many answers in my quest about the significance of the peacock, one of my favorite stories comes from a Greek tradition that believes the peacock’s flesh did not decay, thus becoming a powerful symbol of eternal life. Consider this from St. Augustine in his City of God:

“For who but God the Creator of all things has given to the flesh of the peacock its antiseptic property? This property, when I first heard of it, seemed to me incredible; but it happened at Carthage that a bird of this kind was cooked and served up to me, and, taking a suitable slice of flesh from its breast, I ordered it to be kept, and when it had been kept as many days as make any other flesh stinking, it was produced and set before me, and emitted no offensive smell. And after it had been laid by for thirty days and more, it was still in the same state; and a year after, the same still, except that it was a little more shrivelled, and drier.”

Another symbolic interpretation highlights the “eye” patterns in the peacock’s tail feathers. These may represent the vault of heaven opened, ushering forth the sun, moon, and stars ...the cosmos in all its wonder.

Even through pain and grief, there is always hope in Christ our Lord and the peace of heaven. What a blessed reminder to see this unique bird clothed in the colorful garments of the Creator much more, then, does our Creator care for us?

May God bless those who weep, those who are battling illness and comfort them with the peace & glory of heaven.


Brian Miller said...

how much more indeed...great post...

margaret said...

I only read him occasionally but this is sad news indeed. I hope his chemo normalises to allow him to have some 'real' life time left and that it isn't six months more of the way he's living now. It is so sad - I understand intellectually why this kind of thing happens but every time it does I find myself in tears.

DebD said...

I only read him occasionally too (and not for a long time). This is quite sad as I think he is still quite young.

I never knew this about peacocks, but I love it. Thanks so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Amy, thank you so much for your kinds words you left on my blog today. What a thoughtful gesture. I am taking a little break, but I will be back! I really enjoyed the story about the peacock too.

The Muse said...

one more marvelous reason to be enchanted by His creation!
such a lovely, lovely bird :)

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