The candelabrum recalls the ever-burning lamps in the Lord’s sanctuary and symbolized the Old Testament. The Mosaic lamp stand for the Tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting, was according to the Lord’s command, made of pure gold (Exodus 25:31-40).
The ship symbolizes the Church founded by Christ, which conveys people safely across the sea of life. It also stands for Peter’s boat, that is, the Catholic Church, from which Christ taught the crowds (Luke 5:3).
The phoenix, the mythical bird which burns itself and rises from the ashes with renewed youth to live through another cycle, became from early Christian times the symbol of immortality and the Resurrection of Jesus. Some saw it as symbolizing the immortality of the human soul; for a person at death enters eternal life.
The pelican, the large water fowl with a pouch in its bill for storing fish, and fabled to feed its young with its own blood, became in the Middle Ages the symbol of the Eucharistic Christ, Who feeds the faithful with His Precious Blood. In his Eucharistic hymn, Adore Te, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: “Pelican of mercy, Jesus, Lord and God, cleanse me, wretched sinner, in Thy Precious Blood.”
The Prophet Isaiah, one of the greatest prophets, received his call to prophetic office in the Temple in Jerusalem, in 742 BC. In Prof. Bucmaniuk’s painting, he is prayerfully looking to the distance and listening to the word of the
Lord. To the right of him is a pair of tongs, holding an ember with which a seraphim touched his lips, cleansing him of his sins (Isaiah 6:5-7).
The Prophet Jeremiah is represented with a wooden ox’s yoke over his shoulders. His face radiates peace, but also concern can be seen in his eyes. The Lord ordered Jeremiah to place the yoke on his neck as a sign that a yoke will be placed on the necks of all the nations serving Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (Jeremiah 28:14). Jeremiah was born about 650 BC, of a priestly family near Jerusalem. As a prophet, he suffered imprisonment and public disgrace, because he opposed the idolatry of his people. Nebuchadnezzar took King Jehoiachin into exile, then destroyed Jerusalem and exiled its leading citizens as well. Prof. Bucmaniuk’s intent was to represent Jeremiah as a symbol of obedience to the will of God in trials and tribulations in order to avoid greater evils.
The Prophet Ezekiel is the symbol of death and resurrection. The artist has depicted him against a background of skulls, with the following passage in mind: “The hand of the lord came upon me and he . . . set me in the centre of the plain, which was now filled with bones. He made me walk among them. . . then He said to me: prophesy over these bones . . . I prophesied as I had been told, and even as I was prophesying I heard a noise; it was a rattling, as the bones came together, bone joining bone. I was the sinews and the flesh come upon them, and the skin covered them . . . I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them; they came alive and stood upright, a vast army” (Ezekiel 37:1-10). Ezekiel became a prophet in Babylon. As one of the exiles departed by Nebuchadnezzar in 597, his first task was to prepare his fellow countrymen in exile for the final deportation of Jerusalem, which they believed to be inviolable. Then his prophecy is characterized by the promise of salvation in a new covenant.
The Prophet Daniel has been depicted by Prof. Bucmaniuk as the symbol of unwavering faith and complete confidence in God in the midst of dangers. This is based on the story of Daniel in the lion’s den, in the sixth chapter of the book of Daniel – named after its hero, a young Jew taken early to Babylon, where he lived at least until 538 BC. Under Darius the Mede, Daniel violated a law of the Medes and Persians prohibiting prayer to anyone except the king for thirty days, and was thrown into a den of lions. They did not harm him, and Darius recognizing the miracle, had Daniel’s accusers thrown into the lion’s den. The story shows that God protects his faithful in times of persecution.