Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

The Peacock & Christian Contemplation

Peacock with full train exposed.

From antiquity, the peacock has been a consistent object of Christian symbolism and meditation. In the Old Testament, the peacock was a symbol of King Solomon’s wealth and prosperity (1 Kings 10:22).

Mystics have likewise found the fowl a rich source of meditation and Christian inspiration.  The ancients clearly saw in the intricate patterns of the peacock’s train the hand of the Divine Artist who’s attention to detail revealed the Artist’s unmatched handiwork.  Looking closer at the train, the eye shaped pattern in the feathers have also been a symbol of the Father’s all-seeing eye or omniscience.[1]

Like the eagle, when a peacock molts, the feathers that return are even more magnificent than the prior.  This quickly became a natural symbol of the resurrection.  The hardness of the flesh also lead some to believe that the peacock was impervious to decay.  St. Augustine in his work, City of God (Book 21 Chapter 4), shares a story of how he kept a piece of peacock that was served to him at dinner in order to run an experiment.  Augustine had the flesh set aside for 30 days, inspecting each week, to discover that the flesh neither decayed or emitted any putrid scents related to decay.  In fact, a year later he shares that while the flesh had shriveled in size, it still emitted no odor or showed signs of normal decay – husbands, don’t try this at home!

At Christian grave sites the peacock was a frequent symbol.  To this day, when investigating the catacombs, this ancient symbol is still preserved even though the mortal remains of our ancestors have wasted away.

[1] Mike Aquilina, Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols, (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor 2008) 72

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