Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Lighthouse as a Religious Symbol

During Easter, the holiest week in the Christian faith, and the Passover season celebrated by the Jewish faith, I am reminded of the sacred symbolism of lighthouses. We see their images and lights evoked in sacred traditions and emblems of both faiths.

(Photo of Point Cabrillo Lighthouse at sunset by Bruce Lewis.)

Light has great significance in all Jewish festivals. Passover is a dusk-to-dusk celebration; thus, sunset and the lighting-up of the lighthouse at dusk is a popular image at Passover, akin to the beginning of Passover and the the lighting of candles and reciting of the blessing.

The Old Testament is rife with references to light and the banishing of darkness. While the word “lighthouse” itself doesn’t appear anywhere in the Bible, translators and interpreters give it life in the many verses that portray God, the Word, and Christ as embodiments light.

As symbols of Christianity, lighthouses have special meaning. They represent the guidance, refuge, and salvation that characterized the life of Christ and the meaning of the Easter season. Images like those below illustrate the connection. Some of the lighthouses pictured are generic. The first one is definitely North Head Lighthouse at the entrance to the Columbia River, Washington.

 These images all appear on online sites for churches and faith-based blogs and web pages. There's an abundance of them! Just type "lighthouse + Jesus" in a search engine.

Many churches have the word "lighthouse" in their names. Some also take the shape of a lighthouse or have a lighthouse as part of their architecture or logo.

This church, called Jesus' Name Tabernacle, is in Louisiana. Elma Vaney shot this photo.
Jukesong Lighthouse in South Korea is a church and lighthouse combined. It's featured on Jan Defietser's Panoramio page.

The Church of Atlanta, Georgia fancies itself a lighthouse. I'm not sure it really has one, except in this image. The website says: "A lighthouse helps navigate mariners through storms, dense fog, dark nights and other dangers. Lighthouses reveal safe entries to harbors and assist in aerial navigation.  Similarly, at Church of Atlanta Lighthouse, we help navigate people through the storms, dense fog and dark nights of life."
Ukraine's Alushtyns'ka Lighthouse on the Crimean Peninsula doubles as a church. The city of
Alushtyns'ka has this image on their website.
 The U.S.Lighthouse Society tour on the Texas coast in 2013 found this lighthouse holding a beacon and the church bell at Sabine Pass.

The symbolism is endless. I could write a book called The Lighthouse Made Me Believe. There would be endless illustrations.
I'll leave you with these, in hopes you will believe...that lighthouses are powerful and often-used religious symbols.

This last one is a jigsaw puzzle.

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