Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lice and locusts, but no butterflies

In the mornings I'm inside our church at Mill Run and see the paraments and banners depicting butterflies. They appear after Easter and probably are taken down after Pentecost. Although I know they are used as symbols of renewal and rebirth, they are not a biblical image. Butterflies as a spiritual symbol predate Christianity, and I don't recall seeing them used much until the 1960s and 1970s. (Although I really wasn't paying much attention.) The most frequently named bugs from the Bible are: Locust: 24, Moth: 11, Grasshopper: 10, Scorpion: 10, Caterpillar: 9, and Bee: 4. Lots of animals in the Bible. Eagles soaring; Lambs sacrificed; Fish caught; Goats separated; Bees swarming; Storks migrating; Lions killing; Deer leaping; Horses of war, famine, pestilence and wild beasts racing; Hens gathering a brood, yes. But no butterflies in the Bible that I can find.

Butterflies have a life cycle that involves a complete metamorphosis; locusts have what is called an incomplete metamorphosis--they just keep moulting and changing until they are mature. When Jesus comes back and the dead rise and we all get our new bodies--maybe then the butterfly will be a good symbol because there will be a complete metamorphosis--but until then, I think a locust might be a better symbol. They keep very busy during all their changes to the next level and really reproduce their numbers.

And I really don't expect to see one daintily embroidered into satin for a parament.

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