Symbols of the Baptismal Basin
The basin of the new baptismal font was fashioned in clay and then a cast was made allowing for the basin to be cast in bronze. The basin was executed on a wheel and used 200 pounds of clay. The actions of the potter’s hands are clearly seen in the interior of the basin. The symbols were formed by hand and attached to the basin. Each symbol is important and chosen for an important reason. I encourage you to take a moment and become familiar with the symbols. Please explain them to your children and please, let them touch them and trace them with their growing fingers.
Start at the Alpha and Omega symbols closest to the church doors and move clockwise.
- Alpha and Omega. These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. They describe Jesus himself as being the Word of God and that He is the description of all that is and all that can be. These symbols are also on the Easter (Paschal) Candle located in the wooden floor in front of the altar.
- The symbol of a cross with a Celtic design. There are a number of different crosses used on the basin.
- A basin or bowl decorated with olive leaves. The olive branch and leaves are always symbols of peace, prosperity and new life – the fruits of baptism.
- Four crosses. The most basic of Christian symbols can take many different forms and expressions.
- A tree besides running water. This is a wonderful image found in both Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17. It is what we all hope to be.
- A bunch of grapes. This is the same symbol and design as the tiles on the risers to the altar.
- A jar of holy oil. Both the Oil of Chrism and of Catechumens are used at the Sacrament of Baptism. The holy oils used for sacraments at St. Vincent de Paul Parish are kept in the Ambry not far from the font.
- Two more decorative crosses.
- A palm branch. In the representation of saints in religious art, a martyr is represented holding a palm branch. This is symbolic of the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as well as the image of the saints offering glory to God in heaven.
- A ship on the water. A ship is used as a symbol for the Church itself. It also reminds us of the apostles called from their lives as fishermen to become “fishers of men.” The ship on the water is also central to the Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. It is always part of the current bishop’s coat of arms.
- A dove. The presence of the Spirit of God is traditionally represented as a dove. Along with the olive branch, it is always a symbol for peace.
- A cross. This is the most familiar shape for the cross. It is known as a Roman Cross.
- 2 crosses.
- A fish. From very early times in the Church, a fish was used as a symbol of Christ. Here it is combined with a cross. A fish (with the acronym of Greek letters for ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Savior’) is a common bumper sticker seen around our neighborhoods.
- A cross. This cross is decorated with a crown, reminding us of the triumph of the cross over sin and death. The crown is a symbol throughout scripture and directs us toward the Feast of Christ the King.
- A sheaf of wheat. This is the same symbol and design as the tiles on the risers to the altar.
The Rev. John E. Norman
Pastor, Saint Vincent DePaul Parish